UPS AND DOWNS
Babies rely on you to soothe and care for them. You need to feel emotionally prepared to cope. Throughout life, stressful situations can arise or past experiences resurface, which makes it harder focus on your baby's emotional needs. Sometimes your mind prioritises you, helping you survive, rather than others.
If you feel highly stressed or feel emotionally unavailable, seek help. Pregnancy can add pressures and uncertainty too. It may reveal long buried difficult feelings. Good Enough Start can help you.
If pregnancy isn't something you expected to welcome you may feel a complex mix of emotions — shock, uncertainty and even fear are common responses. You might have thoughts like, 'I don’t want to be pregnant,' or even, 'I don’t want the baby.' If you are pregnant and don’t want to be, or if you simply feel that you are not ready to be a parent, you can talk openly to a Good Enough Start Practitioner who will listen, help answer questions or worries you may have.
Most people experience some form of stress for all kinds of reasons. If you feel highly stressed over a long period, your body produces cortisol in response. Increased levels of cortisol over-time negatively affects your brain and can affect the immune system, making it more difficult to function normally. This is true for your baby's brain and their immune system too. This is why it is important to reduce prolonged stress for both yourself and your baby, especially during pregnancy. Practitioners can help you to reduce the reason and feelings of stress.
A settled home environment helps to reduce the stresses of life but there are also risk factors which can greatly unsettle a family's home environment. It could be loss of income, poverty, illness, bereavement, separation, substance misuse, or even a premature birth. Any of these situations can impact on the parent-infant relationship. Where there are multiple risk factors the likelihood of a negative impact increases. Practitioners will help you and advise on the available support services to reduce risks.
Childhood experiences can greatly influence your parenting approach. Having a baby can bring back childhood memories which can help or hinder your parent-infant relationship with your own baby. When experiences are positive it's easier to adapt to parenthood. When experiences have been less than ideal it can create unconscious negative feelings which can hinder your journey as a parent. Practitioners can support you to address such feelings - conscious or unconscious - should they arise.
ADVERSE CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCES
Research shows that mothers and fathers who lived through adverse childhood experiences, who have not come to terms with the feelings associated with that trauma, can find it more difficult to form a secure parent infant relationship, even without being aware why.
Adverse Childhood Experiences, also known as ACEs, are stressful events occurring in childhood including: domestic violence; parental abandonment through separation or divorce; a parent with a mental health condition; being the victim of abuse (physical, sexual and/or emotional) being the victim of neglect (physical and emotional); a member of the household being in prison or growing up in a household in which there are adults experiencing alcohol and drug use problems.
Good Enough Start practitioners can listen and help you deal with negative feelings if you have been affected by childhood trauma. It is possible to overcome negative memories and create a secure parent-infant relationship with your own child so they don't suffer ACES. Watch - 'What are ACES?' here.
The “baby blues” is a term used to describe the feelings of worry, unhappiness, and fatigue that many women experience after having a baby. Babies require a lot of care, so it’s normal for mothers to be worried about, or tired from, providing that care. Baby blues, which affects up to 80% of mothers, includes feelings that are somewhat mild, last a week or two, and go away on their own.
Pregnancy itself can affect a woman’s mental health. Antenatal depression is when you feel sad all the time for weeks or months during your pregnancy. The condition can vary from mild to severe and can affect women in different ways. Depression in pregnancy is very common. Around 1 in 10 pregnant women has antenatal depression. Read more Tommy's Pregnancy Hub. Here.
If you are living with long-term anxiety, depression or other mental health diagnosis discuss your plans to have a baby with your GP or psychiatrist. Pre-Pregnancy Counselling will help you and your doctor plan for the healthiest start for you and your baby. Most medication is safe for pregnant women but it's always best to check. Read more NHS advice. Here.
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. It can also affect fathers and partners.
It's important to seek help as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed, as your symptoms could last months or get worse and have a significant impact on you, your baby and your family. Read NHS advice.
Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health illness that can affect a woman soon after she has a baby. If you suspect you are affected by this Read NHS advice about what to do.