Becoming a mum for the first time inevitably brings with it a host of changes. But whilst a lot of the focus tends to be on the physical and practical changes that will occur, it’s easy to overlook the emotional impact it can have. How can you prepare your mind for motherhood and cope with the pressures it may bring?
The changing face of motherhood
Being a mum and getting prepared for motherhood has changed in various ways over the years.
Mums today are often juggling more roles and commitments in their life than previous generations of their mothers and grandmothers. More women are employed in full time jobs and have to contend with work and home life, plus there’s a tendency to delay childbirth to later years, which can bring its own woes of declining fertility (1,2)
What’s more, families and their locations have changed from previous generations. Whereas once it was the norm for family members to live in close proximity to one another, these days it’s common for families to live apart.
Recent research by AXA PPP healthcare, conducted by Netmums, reveals that nearly a quarter of new mums have no family living nearby to help them adjust to motherhood and share the work of caring for their newborn baby, and over a quarter felt lonely after having their baby.(3)
How can impending motherhood create pressure?
Although pregnancy can be an amazing journey and life transition, various types of pressure can arise, sometimes taking you by surprise.
Aside from the fears and anxiety about giving birth and worrying that your life will never be the same again, some women feel like they’ve lost control and that their sense of identity is disappearing.
When you announce you’re pregnant, everyone has a habit of giving you advice. As much as it’s normally well meaning, it can also be hard to deal with as everyone thinks they know best. Families and grandparents-to-be can add pressure too and you may feel under stress to live up to heightened expectations.
If you’re taking time off work for maternity leave, getting all the loose ends tied up and handing over responsibility for your job to someone else can be stressful.
Feeling under pressure can impact on mental wellbeing and lead to feelings of stress.
‘Control, or lack of it, is a key factor in creating emotional pressure during pregnancy,’ believes behaviour expert Judi James. ‘Humans are used to adapting to change, but when change is profound and out of our control, that pressure can easily convert into stress.’
The findings from AXA PPP healthcare’s new mums survey, about women feeling lonely and having no family nearby to help, are factors that could put mums at an increased risk of mental health issues, such as antenatal or post-natal depression.(3,4)
Antenatal depression isn’t uncommon. According to the charity Tommy’s, one in 10 women experiences depression in pregnancy.(5)
Tips for managing pressure
Judi James has these top tips to help you cope with emotional pressure and prevent it from converting into stress:
- Lower your expectations. Be prepared for mood swings and moments of panic during pregnancy.
- Keep a mood diary. Log your feelings daily and help yourself feel more in control.
- Unleash your humour. Stock up on DVDs that make you laugh and spend time with entertaining friends.
- Accept the lack of control. This will help reduce stress and worry.
- Take breaks. You’ll make better use of your time and lower your stress levels.
- Communicate. Your partner isn’t a mind-reader – tell them how you feel and what you’d like help with.
- Eat healthy snacks. The sugar rush and quick come down of chocolate may make you feel gloomier.
- Ignore celebrities on social media. They only fuel the unrealistic pressure of perfection.
Health tech for new mums
Another practical way of helping you manage pressure and prepare your mind is to utilise technology.
The AXA PPP healthcare survey found that many new mums relied on social media to stay in contact with friends and feel socially connected, but apps can play an important role too, both during your pregnancy journey and beyond.(3)
The Netmums Chat app enables you to connect and chat with a community of parents and professionals at any time of day or night – perfect for when you haven’t got anyone to call on in person.
If you’re keen to know what’s normal, the Pregnancy by Bounty app is worth using. You can use it to keep a personal pregnancy diary and prepare for motherhood. Plus, it will keep you up-to-date with everything that is happening to your body and your baby’s development.
Finally, for reassuring advice and practical tips on caring for your baby, try the What to Expect app. You can keep track of your baby’s daily schedule and those all important feeds and nappy changes.
If you are interested in learning more about the health technology revolution and how you may be able to benefit from it, visit our dedicated AXA PPP Health Tech & Website for more information.
Remember there is always support from your GP or Health visitor if the situation seems to escalate or is concerning. Plus you can sign up to the NHS Information Service for Parents.
(3) AXA PPP healthcare online survey of 3,000 UK mums conducted during January 2015 by Netmums