New parenthood is widely seen as a time of joy but it is often a time of enormous vulnerability for women as they navigate their new life and role as a mother.
No matter how independent they may have been before they had a baby, we often hear that becoming a mum is when many women need their own mothers the most.
Around 1 in 7 expecting or new mums in Australia are affected by perinatal anxiety or depression every year and about 1 in 10 dads will also experience the condition.
At PANDA, we hear from our callers that the absence of a supportive mother figure can significantly increase distress for new mums suffering perinatal anxiety or depression.
Many women do not have a supportive mother figure in their life. While there can be many reasons for this, the grief and loss that comes with this absence can sometimes feel overwhelming when a woman becomes a mother herself.
We hear a range of concerns from new mothers and they often centre around change and struggling to understand how they are feeling, and why.
For example, many women comment that they have lost their former identity, as a successful career woman or as a physically or socially active person. Feelings of isolation, sadness and an inability to cope can be very unsettling, even shameful.
Almost a quarter of all callers report the absence of their own mum as contributing to their distress, however, we expect this number would be significantly higher if we were to include mothers whose own mums are physically around but not willing or able to offer emotional support.
While it’s often a tricky subject, we encourage you to start a real conversation with the new mums among your close friends and family, especially those without a mother figure in their lives.
Here are 3 questions you can ask a new mum this Mother’s Day
- How do you feel you have been adjusting to the changes of becoming a mum?
- Who are you talking to and getting support from?
- Are you prioritising your own health and needs – they are just as important as your baby’s.
Take a moment this Mother’s Day to recognise that for some new mothers this might be a difficult day. You might be just the right person to help.
If you are worried about your partner, family member or friend, encourage them to phone the PANDA National Helpline (1300 726 306).
At PANDA, we are very aware of the need for new parents, particularly mothers, to feel loved, appreciated and practically supported at a time when they are giving enormous amounts of time, energy and love to their baby. We explore what social supports, are in place and encourage mothers to talk openly about their needs for emotional as well as practical support. Depending on the woman’s needs, we can refer to a range of support services including perinatal counsellors, support groups and parenting services.
The helpline operates Monday to Friday from 10am to 5pm EST. Visit www.panda.org.au.