A big welcome to guest blogger Lauren-Eden Penn!
Lauren (Loz) writes about her experiences of maternal mental health with recommendations for others in similar situations. Lauren transformed adversity into entrepreneurship with her media brand Loz Creates and, creating an inspirational range of journals and notepads for improving mental health.
This week has been maternal mental health week, a week dedicated to talking about mental health problems during and after pregnancy. Whilst changing attitudes and helping families to access the information, care and support that they need.
While welcoming a new baby into the world is something incredible, it’s by no means easy. In fact, for many women, including myself, it’s really quite difficult. But, if you’re struggling with your mental health – you’re not alone. As many as one in five women experience mental health problems during or following pregnancy.
Personally, my mental health has always been rocky. As a teenager I experienced sexual abuse at the hands of my HIV+ father, which led to me spiralling as a teenager. I struggled with addiction, depression, anxiety, and ultimately tried to end my life when I was just fifteen years old. The emotions I was feeling were too complex and intense for me to manage, and I felt at the time, there was no way out.
Writing this blog post now, as a twenty-two year old woman. I’d like to say that however heavy the world feels, things can, and do change. I now own my own business, have a fiancé, two beautiful daughters, and am completing ongoing work to recover from my trauma and look after my mental health.
Both of my pregnancies were difficult, the influx of hormones associated with carrying a child is huge on its own, let alone when you’re already struggling. I was incredibly lucky to have a brilliant support network around me though, and want to share some places that you can reach out to for support when you need it!
Where to seek support
There are a number of services that you can go through which offer a range of options to help you overcome common mental health problems such as anxiety and depression through talking. Speak to your midwife or GP to chat about how you can self-refer.
Perinatal community mental health teams
These teams work with people who have a range of mental health problems during pregnancy, childhood and early motherhood, and act as a team to support you however best suits you!
I have been looked after by my local perinatal community mental health team during both my pregnancies, and they’ve been incredibly helpful. A care plan will look different for everyone, but for me, I have regular phone calls with a mental health doctor. I am also visited on a fortnightly basis at home by a community care worker, who will soon be starting DBT therapy with me so that I can work on stabilising my mood. The team has also been incredibly helpful with exploring medication, and helping me to find antidepressants and antipsychotics that are best suited to me.
Self help guides
The NHS has a range of award winning self help guides that include postnatal depression. The guide helps to explain the causes of postnatal depression and explores ways of coping and managing, whilst signposting further support if you feel you need it.
It’s also worth researching if there are any community groups that you can attend for support! If this is quite overwhelming, sometimes an online group may be easier. The NHS runs an online perinatal mother and baby group called ‘Finding our rhythm’ and an online course called GroBrain all about infant brain development and how parents can impact this!
Through my business Loz Creates, I try to promote positive mental health and wellbeing as much as possible, and have a collection oriented around this. Some of the notepads from my collection would be especially beneficial for new mums or mums to be that are struggling. I’ve personally used them all, and seen a great benefit!
Do you struggle with anxiety?
If you answered yes, do you feel like you’re able to manage it well? Or like me, do you find it difficult to work through your worries and challenge your unhelpful thoughts?
As I’ve mentioned, I struggle a lot with my mental health – I suffer from anxiety, PTSD, and BPD, so I really wanted to create some items that I could use myself to better manage some of my symptoms, but also help others to do the same! Because of my BPD, I often see things in very black and white terms, so find it especially hard to tackle unhelpful thoughts. Similarly, my PTSD causes me to dissociate from my surroundings, so having the techniques to ground myself and think more rationally in times where I’m feeling overwhelmed is really helpful. From this I created a journal that helps you work through your worries, this is a handy way to examine whether or not it’s real or hypothetical, and how best to move forward.
I created the ‘Challenging my unhelpful thinking’ pad which helps to break down your negative thoughts by identifying where they’ve come from, notice errors in your thinking, and replace them with positivity. And the pause pad, which is there for when you’re feeling overwhelmed and need help to ground yourself and become present again in the moment and regain a sense of inner calm.
These notepads are available to purchase along with a range of other paper goods from my website, lozcreates.co.uk and you can use the code MOTHERMIND20 for 20% off everything!
If you need to urgently speak to someone when you’re struggling, Samaritans are available 24 hours a day by calling 116 123, or alternatively, if you find it difficult to speak on the phone you can text SHOUT to 85258 to speak with someone via text message. www.7cups.com is another brilliant website where you can talk online with a trained listener if you need to talk!