More than 1 in 10 women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby. At the heart of maternal mental health are relationships. Becoming a parent is one of the most stressful life events we navigate. We know that the quality of our relationships is linked to our mental health, and many new parents report relationship pressures and arguing more.
When one parent experiences poor mental health, the entire family unit can be impacted.
Good quality relationships are also important for children’s life chances. Secure relationships in early childhood have been found to act as a buffer for coping with stress; resilience when adjusting to difficulties or change; as well as improved self-esteem.
Feelings of inadequacy may also be normal, but try to remember that what your baby needs most is a relationship with you. Therefore, simply being with your baby and involving them in your daily activities is enough for now.
Relationship with self & others
One of the most important relationships we have, our relationship with ourselves, can suffer as new parents invest in the range of other relationships that are critical at this time – between parent and baby, family members, health professionals and across society. This may also impact on our couple relationship, leaving less time for us to feel close or intimate with each other.
Make time for date night or talking to your partner, if you have one, about how they are coping and also about things which are not to do with your roles as parents. Sharing how your feeling with your loved ones can help strengthen your relationships and improve your support structures, but you may also wish to speak to somebody outside of your friend or family circles.
Speaking to other parents may be an opportunity to learn from your shared experiences. Friends, family and colleagues may be happy to share their experiences with you including any coping mechanisms they may have developed. The Parent Rooms run perinatal peer support groups hosted by a trained peer support leader who has their own experiences of mental illness.
If you are feeling mentally unwell during the perinatal period, it is really important that you reach out for support, whether this is a new feeling or an existing illness which is being exacerbated. Relate NI offer a specialised perinatal relationship counselling service in partnership with The Parent Rooms.