How to be okay about not being okay
Last Sunday, we celebrated Mother’s Day to commemorate their never-ending love for us and for being ever-present in our lives. Mothers often share that their pregnancy experience was a joyous one, but as they are also well aware, motherhood is far from easy. There can be times when the experience gets overwhelming.
Mothers may encounter instances where they feel like giving up, but there are also times when they are able to face their challenges head-on. However, when one feels that they are alone and isolated in handling their problems, they may develop depressive thoughts. These thoughts may vary from guilt for not being as happy as one should, or not being as composed as other women in their social circles, or feeling incompetent when they compare themselves to other mothers.
Feeling alone when facing the tough challenges of pregnancy can be difficult to overcome and battle through. As a result, these feelings may intensify. When a pregnant woman’s negative thoughts and feelings spiral uncontrollably, they are at risk of developing unhealthy coping habits that could be detrimental to themselves and their baby. Thus, the first step to being okay about not being okay is for a mother to acknowledge that they are not coping well during or after their pregnancy.
(Gavin, 2017; SANE Australia, 2019) I’m not fine when I…
Have suicidal thoughts
Have thoughts about self-harm or hurting my baby
Am feeling completely overwhelmed
Obsess over the little things
Have excessive guilt
Am always anxious over my baby
Have extreme mood swings
When the mother realises that they have any of these debilitating symptoms, they should also know that they are not alone. There are many women around the world who share the same, or similar, experiences. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO, n.d.), depression affects approximately 16% of mothers during their pregnancy and 20% of mothers after their pregnancy, in developing countries.
Although we live in a society where mental health disorders and illnesses tend to be stigmatised, we should understand that it is valid to be experiencing all or some of these symptoms. It takes immense courage and strength for a mother, or anyone, to admit that they are not coping well. Once they are able to do that, they can take proactive steps towards alleviating these symptoms.
(Gavin, 2017; Mind, n.d.) What can I do next?
Talk it out with my spouse and close family members
Make an appointment to see a mental health practitioner
Join a support group
Educate myself about maternal mental health
Write down my feelings and thoughts in a journal
Be creative and start a blog
Exercise and meditate (e.g. yoga)
Take some time off for myself
Manage my expectations
The process of healing and working on oneself is long yet worthwhile. All mothers will experience pregnancy differently as each woman will have their unique personality, and reactions to hormonal changes will differ for each mother. It is unfair to compare oneself to another person in different circumstances. Mothers should be encouraged to develop realistic expectations and not be too hard on themselves. No one is perfect; it is okay to make mistakes, as long as one learns from them and uses these to work towards getting better.
Gavin, M. L. (2017). Taking Care of Your Mental Health During Pregnancy: (https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/pregnant-mental-health.html)
Mind. (n.d.) How can I look after myself? (https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/self-care/#collapse40040)
SANE Australia. (2019). Perinatal mental illness: (https://www.sane.org/information-stories/facts-and-guides/perinatal-mental-illness)
World Health Organisation. (n.d.). Maternal Mental Health: (https://www.who.int/mental_health/maternal-child/maternal_mental_health/en/)
Perinatal, antenatal, and postnatal depression: (https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/pregnancy-and-new-parents/maternal-mental-health-and-wellbeing/depression)
Maternal mental health issues are significant challenges that may affect women before and during pregnancy, and after childbirth. Studies have shown that better awareness, and timely assistance, can help increase the chances of full recovery for mothers affected by these conditions.
SOLS Health is currently conducting research into how existing identification and treatment services may be improved for women affected by postpartum depression in Selangor. If you are a woman of childbearing age residing in Selangor, please do take some time to share your thoughts with us by filling up a short survey at one of the links below. It will only take less than 10 minutes, and your insights would contribute to improving the quality of services, and access to care for mothers affected by these conditions.
We are just 20 responses shy of collecting our target response numbers, and would truly value your support to help us reach our goal.