I'm a new mum
Having a new baby is generally seen as a time of great happiness and excitement. The reality is that many new mums can feel low or anxious and experience problems with their emotional health.
Many women feel guilty or embarrassed about these feelings and end up not seeking the support that they need. It's often thought that health professionals are just there to look after your physical health, but they are there to offer support for your emotional health as well.
If you feel that you are struggling then speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP as the sooner you seek help, the quicker you can find the right support to help you cope..
This section can also give you lots of useful information about taking care of your wellbeing as a new mum and finding different forms of support in the city.
What you will learn in this section:
- What can I do to keep myself feeling well after the birth?
- What are the ‘baby blues’ and when should I ask for help?
- How can depression and anxiety affect new mums?
- What support is available in Leeds for new parents?
- What is Postnatal Trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)?
- What is postpartum psychosis?
- What should I do if I need help immediately?
What can I do to keep myself feeling well after the birth?
It's very normal to feel overwhelmed when your baby arrives, particularly as you're very likely to be getting less sleep. You may feel other pressures and stresses, as well, including feelings of responsibility for your new baby, money worries and changes to your relationships. This could be with a partner, a family member, friends or other children, if you have any.
Following our guide can help to look after your emotional health as a new parent.
You can also create a Pregnancy and Post-birth Wellbeing Plan on the Tommy's website.
What are the ‘baby blues’ and when should I ask for help?
Being a new mum is often thought of as a joyful state and many women feel a lot of pressure to appear happy during the weeks after giving birth. The reality is that up to 70% of new mums experience the 'baby blues' in the first week or so after the birth. A drop in hormones, the exhaustion of giving birth, lack of sleep and the sudden responsibility of looking after a new born baby can all have a big impact on your mood.
You might feel upset, a little down, irritable or just feel like crying for no obvious reason. Many women often laugh and cry at the same time! These are completely normal feelings and usually only last for a few days and not longer than two weeks after giving birth. If, however, these feelings continue or get worse and start to affect day-to-day life it may be a sign of postnatal depression or another mental health problem.
Unfortunately, new mums sometimes dismiss a more serious problem as 'just the baby blues' and this stops them from seeking help and getting the extra support that they need.
If you are struggling with your emotional health it's important to talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor, even if you don't think that you have a specific mental health problem.
How can depression and anxiety affect new mums?
Many women find that the first months after giving birth is not the perfect, magical time that they expected and hold back on asking for help because they are worried about being judged as a 'bad parent'.
They may even fear that their baby will be taken away from them if they admit to feeling low or anxious. This can lead some mums to spend a lot of effort trying to make it appear that nothing is wrong.
These fears can stop some women getting the support that they need to feel well and bond with their baby. All women who don't feel right or are struggling with their emotions, in whatever way, should feel able to be open with their midwife, GP or health visitor. They will ask you some questions to help them understand a bit more about what you've been experiencing and discuss with you what support is available to help you feel better.
Watch this animation with new mums from Leeds talking about how they struggled with their emotions during pregnancy and after the birth.
Postnatal depression is a type of depression experienced after having a baby. It is fairly common - affecting one in 10 women within a year of giving birth. It can also affect dads and partners although this is less common.
Some signs of postnatal depression can include:
- Feeling sad, low, tearful or guilty most of the time.
- Worrying a lot about your baby and their wellbeing.
- Withdrawing from contact with other people.
- Difficulty bonding with your baby.
- Lack of interest in activities you used to enjoy.
- Feeling irritable.
- Loss of self-confidence.
- Problems concentrating and making decisions.
- Changes in appetite - eating more or less.
- Feeling restless and lacking energy.
- Less interest in sex.
- Problems sleeping at night and feeling tired during the day.
- Tense muscles.
- Feeling panicky or experiencing panic attacks.
- Frightening thoughts - for example, about hurting your baby.
Many women also experience anxiety after having a baby. Being responsible for a new life can feel overwhelming at times and it is natural to experience worries about looking after your baby. However, if these feelings continue or are affecting your day-to-day life, talk to your health visitor or GP.
Some women experience obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) which can focus on distressing thoughts and images such as harming the baby. This can be really scary, but does not mean that you will act on these thoughts. Speak to a health worker about finding the right support. It's also possible to experience health anxiety which may focus on extreme worries that there is something wrong with the baby and repeated health checks that don't help to reduce the anxiety.
Understandably, some factors or situations can make it more likely for someone to experience emotional difficulties after having a baby, including:
- A difficult or traumatic birth, a premature or early birth, a stillbirth or the death of a baby.
- Problems getting enough sleep.
- Lacking support at home or from family and friends.
- Relationship problems.
- Experiencing other stresses and life events at the same time, such as bereavement or money worries.
- Being a younger mum.
- Previous experience of depression.
- Feeling unsafe at home (domestic abuse).
However, it is important to know that any woman could experience mental health difficulties in the weeks and months after giving birth
What support is available in Leeds for new parents?
Many women worry that they will be judged as a 'bad parent' which can stop them asking for the support that they need to feel well and bond with their baby.
You can talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor, at any stage, about how you're feeling. They will ask you some questions to help them understand a bit more about what you've been experiencing and discuss what support is available to help you cope.
Any health professional you speak to should treat you with respect and understanding. If you speak to someone and don't feel that they understand, however, it is OK to try speaking to another professional who you feel more comfortable talking to.
There's a lot of support available in Leeds. Read our guide to the different kinds of support available for new parents in Leeds including services that you can refer yourself to.
You can read real life stories about parenthood and mental health from mums and dads in Leeds at https://nestleeds.co.uk
The site is run by NEST ambassadors, Anna and Lisa, two mums with lived experiences of maternal ill health – who are passionate about sharing their stories to help others.
You can also follow NEST on Instagram and Facebook - search for NESTLeeds
What is Postnatal Trauma and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)?
Some mums and their partners may experience the birth of their baby as a traumatic event, especially if the birth didn't go as expected, or there was a fear that either mum or baby were in danger of harm. Feelings of helplessness, severe anxiety and confusion, as well as uncertainty of how things may turn out can be extremely traumatic. The impact of such a difficult experience and memories of what happened may not easily fade after the birth, even when the outcome is positive.
Symptoms of postnatal trauma can start immediately after the birth or may develop in the weeks and months after. Although distressing, trauma symptoms are a normal response to an abnormal and possibly life threatening event and can include:
Reliving the trauma:
- Vivid and intrusive thoughts and images of the event which can suddenly appear and distress you.
- Disturbing dreams.
- Intense distress and anxiety when faced with reminders of the experience.
Changes in thinking, feeling and physical sensations:
- Being easily startled and always on the look out for possible dangers or threats, known as hypervigilance.
- Getting very emotional very quickly, sometimes for no obvious reason, known as hyperarousal.
- Disturbed sleep patterns.
- Difficulty concentrating.
- Feeling numb or emotionally detached.
Negative thoughts and feelings:
- Thinking negatively about yourself, the world and the future.
- Excessive self-blame.
- Reduced interest in your usual activities.
- Difficulties experiencing positive feelings.
You may also notice that you try to avoid thinking about what happened and anything which triggers the memory. For example, you may feel the urge to avoid situations that remind you of the trauma. Again this is common following a traumatic experience. For many people, trauma symptoms decrease gradually as the experience is accepted as something that has happened. Good support from partners, family, friends and professionals can help with this adjustment. However, if symptoms continue for weeks or months after the birth this is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. As it's not as well-known as Postnatal Depression, Postnatal PTSD may not be as easily recognised, by either the parents themselves or the professionals involved in their care. It's common for new parents who've experienced a traumatic birth to think that they should be able to move on after the event. This can stop the effects of the experience from being acknowledged and understood.
There are a number of factors which increase the likelihood of Postnatal PTSD developing. These include:
- A difficult experience of childbirth.
- Previous mental health difficulties.
- A history of previous traumatic experiences.
- Birth complications and emergency procedures.
- Lack of support from family or friends.
Many people who experience a traumatic birth find that the effects can continue and overshadow the period after the birth. In this case, it's important to seek professional help and support including psychological therapy. You can self-refer by clicking this link to Leeds Improving Access to Psychological Therapies IAPT) or talk to your midwife/health visitor or GP, who can arrange a referral to an appropriate service. You can find more information about treatments for PTSD on the NHS website.
What is postpartum psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is a very serious and rare mental health condition which affects around one in every 1000 women who give birth. It can also be called puerperal psychosis or post-natal psychosis.
Women experiencing this condition have hallucinations (hearing voices or seeing things that aren't real) and/or delusional thoughts (thoughts that are unlikely to be true).
They may also experience:
- Mania - appearing in a high mood, talking too much and thinking too quickly.
- Feeling very low or depressed.
- Mood swings between feeling high and low.
- Loss of inhibitions.
- Feeling paranoid, scared or suspicious of other people.
- Feeling restless, tearful, withdrawn or irritable.
- Problems sleeping and lack of energy.
Often women experiencing this condition do not realise themselves that they are unwell, so it is important for a partner, friend or family member to get help urgently if they suspect something is wrong.
Some women who experience postpartum psychosis can get worse and be in danger of hurting themselves or their baby. In that case you should see your GP urgently (the same day) or attend your local A&E department.
If you feel that you or someone else is in immediate danger, you should call 999 immediately.
See section below 'What should I do if I need help immediately' for more information.
What should I do if I need help immediately?
If you feel that you or someone else is in immediate danger, you should call 999 immediately.
If you have thoughts of hurting yourself or taking your own life, it is very important that you arrange an urgent appointment with a health professional such as your GP so they can put the right support in place for you and your family.
If you've had previous contact with mental health services in Leeds - do they have a crisis plan with contact details? If you are unable to find the plan, you can call Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust's (LYPFT) Single Point of Access (SPA) on 0300 300 1485. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you can text 07983 323867. The SPA Team provides an access point for referrals by health care professionals to specialist mental health services in Leeds. They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
If they've not had any previous contact with mental health services in Leeds and cannot wait for an urgent GP appointment: call NHS 111
Connect is a telephone helpline for people living in Leeds. The service provides emotional support and information for people in distress. Trained volunteers provide compassionate, non-judgemental support and can give information about other services, if needed. You can also talk to Connect through instant chat.
Open 6pm-2am every night of the year.
Tel 0808 800 1212 (freephone)
Dial House is an out-of-hours Leeds service for people in times of crisis where visitors can relax and have an hour of one-to-one support from the team of crisis support workers. Visitors who are attending for the first time, can just turn up from 6pm. If you have been before you will need to ring 0113 2609328 or text 07922 249452 from 6pm on the night you want to request a visit (it's best to ring before 7.30pm if possible).
Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday - 6pm-2am.
Well-Bean Hope in a Crisis Café is open to people in Leeds who are experiencing a crisis. The cafe can offer emotional one-to-one support for up to one hour, support in a safe social space as well as practical help. You can self-refer to this service - visitors should ring or text first on 07760 173476 each time they would like to go to the cafe.
Open on Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Bank Holiday evenings 6pm-12am.
Open on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings 6pm-12am.
Open on Thursday and Friday evenings from 6pm to 12am.
Tools and apps
The Royal College of Psychiatrists has produced a series of eight helpful leaflets for pregnant women and new parents on a range of topics including perinatal OCD and postpartum psychosis.
From Dads to Dads - is a website especially for dads, featuring real life experiences, useful facts and information laid out simply by experts in the field.
The Pandas Foundation is an organisation which helps individuals and their families with pre and postnatal depression advice and support. They also offer support to families in the antenatal period. The Pandas Foundation helpline is open 9am to 8pm on 0843 2898401.