Social isolation putting new mums at risk

11 February 2015


The numbers behind the story...

AXA PPP healthcare has partnered with Netmums to carry out research to get a better understanding of the scale of social isolation and psychological concerns that first-time mums can experience.

Being a new mum can leave women more vulnerable to experiencing isolation and feelings of loneliness. Over time, if left unchecked, these feelings can affect mental health and even contribute to the development of postnatal depression.

The research found that over a quarter of first time mums feel lonely following the birth of their baby, but what factors are influencing this high level of loneliness?

Firstly, 24 per cent of new mums questioned said they had no family living nearby. Not being able to count on family to help out leaves a gap in their support network. People may talk to their families on the phone and online but it’s not the same as having hands-on help.

When a baby arrives, aspects of new mum’s life can fall away, with friends being one of them. Fourteen per cent of new mums questioned said they’d lost touch with old friends and more than a quarter said they’d not really made any new friends since giving birth. That number rises to 38 per cent for 18 to 24 year olds.

This ‘friendship gap’ (losing old friends whilst not making new ones) can have a huge impact. As another aspect of the support network fades away, first time mums struggle to juggle having a new baby with meeting new people, furthering feelings of isolation.

In addition to these factors, many first time mums (33 per cent) find being in their new role harder than they expected, with 37 per cent saying they feel stressed since giving birth. It follows that new mums experiencing these feelings need additional support. Yet nearly one in five (17 per cent) said they wished they had someone to talk to openly about their baby worries and challenges.

It’s perhaps unsurprising then that a fifth (19 per cent) also said they use online forums to get in touch with other new mums and that their reliance on social media to stay connected with existing friends increased from a third (33 per cent) to almost a half (49 per cent) following the birth of their child.

Attending antenatal classes is a good way for mums-to-be to bond with others in the same position and avoid finding themselves with a friendship gap once their baby has arrived. However, a fifth questioned did not attend antenatal classes, increasing to 40 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds – the group that struggles most with making new friends.

It’s important for mums-to-be to understand the importance of planning ahead for the feelings they may experience upon becoming a new mum. 

Watch Dr Steve Iley our medical director at Health Services, talk in more detail about the research on Wake Up London. Or listen to our radio interviews from the morning of the research release: