Is social media making you miserable?

Posted on 25/06/2018 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

Does linking up with other mothers and fathers on Facebook and Instagram make us happier? The answer it would seem is not. A survey by the Priory Group, the mental healthcare specialists, found that as many as half of parents think that social media sites like Instagram and Facebook create unrealistic and unattainable expectations of family life which fuel anxiety and can trigger depression.

 

More than one in five parents - 22% - said that happy family pictures posted on Instagram, or exuberant baby blog posts on Facebook and other sites, made them feel “inadequate” - while a similar number, 23%, said it made them feel “depressed”.

 

And they didn’t think they were alone.

 

Nearly 40% said they thought idealised images of parenthood – and “over-sharenting” - were fuelling anxiety among new parents, while more than a third (36%) said they thought that baby bloggers and “Instamums” were contributing to rising rates of depression

 

Instead of creating a friendly “online community”, more than one in 10 of those asked said that rather than feeling more connected to other mothers, such sites could make new parents feel more isolated.

 

While the desire to share the joy of a new-born baby is nothing new, social media platforms have taken proud parenting to a new level, with “baby boasting”, “parenting wins” and “mummy-goals” becoming as much part of the daily routine as breastfeeding and nappy-changes.

 

From the positive pregnancy test, to the gender reveal, the baby shower and even labour, every aspect of a child’s early days is now shared online. Previously, these important announcements would have been shared with a close family network, but they are now broadcast to followers and “friends” across the globe.  

 

There are, of course, clear benefits to “being social” – particularly for mothers without a close network to hand. Social media can be reassuring for new parents who turn to their online community for advice on anything from health, relationships, “best buys” and general parenting techniques.

 

However, for others, endlessly “perfect” posts can have the reverse effect, generating feelings of not measuring up, even though they know that continuous boasting, and glossing over the less positive moments in life, is disingenuous and fake.


Dr Lucinda Green, Priory Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at Priory’s Harley Street Wellbeing Centre, and expert in the mental health of women during pregnancy and up to one year after birth, says; 

“These findings are very concerning, but sadly not surprising. Around 1 in 5 women have mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year after birth. Depression and anxiety are common, but women can experience a wide range of mental health problems at this important time in their lives. There are many factors which contribute and these unrealistic representations of motherhood on social media definitely do not help.

“Women who criticise themselves, or assume others will judge them, for failing to be the perfect mother they aspire to be, are at increased risk of postnatal depression. When social media projects idealised images of parenthood as the norm, it’s easy for new parents to feel guilty or inadequate if their experience does not match this.”

Dr Green adds; “Previous surveys, such as Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices (Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists) have identified the pressure to enjoy motherhood as a reason for women feeling isolated and guilty for not being happy and finding parenting hard. Women highlighted the importance of having a realistic picture of motherhood and an acceptance that it is experienced differently by different women. Being a new parent can be tough. Most new parents find it overwhelming, exhausting and stressful at times.”

 

The Duchess of Cambridge (and mental health ambassador) has also spoken about the pressures of motherhood, saying: “Some of this fear is about the pressure to be a perfect parent; pretending we're all coping perfectly and loving every minute of it. It's right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains."

 

Dr Green says; “Over half of women with mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth are not identified. Even fewer have the evidence-based treatments they need. Women’s sense of shame, embarrassment and failure at being perceived as not coping as a mother is a significant reason for their reluctance to disclose symptoms of depression or anxiety. Pictures of apparently ‘perfect parents’ on social media can reinforce this. However, it’s crucial that women have treatment for mental health problems in pregnancy or after birth - the impact of untreated illness is longstanding for women, partners and children.

Here, Dr Green outlines her guidance to help parents take a breather from social media and help with mental health:

  • Have the courage to unfollow or unfriend: Hitting the unfollow button on a ‘friend’s’ Instagram or Facebook account can be a huge relief. Unfollowing celebrity mums or “insta-mums” will protect you from constantly comparing yourself to them.
  • Remember that your mental health is as important as your physical health in pregnancy and after birth. Make a plan as early as possible to ensure you have support for your emotional wellbeing. One good way to do this is to use the Tommy’s charity “Pregnancy & Post-Birth Wellbeing Plan” which you can download from www.tommys.org.uk
  • If you’ve had mental health problems previously, or if you have current symptoms, talk to your midwife, GP or health visitor. They will know about help and support in your area. Getting help early means you have a chance to prevent illness, or at least to have treatment before problems become too serious.
  • Look after yourself: eat healthily, exercise and avoid alcohol. It can be hard to find time for yourself as a parent but take any opportunity to relax or have a break.
  • Let others help - accept offers of help from family and friends to cook or look after children for you.
  • Talk to someone you trust. This may be your partner, a relative or friend, or it could be your GP, midwife or health visitor. It really can help to open up about how you feel. It’s good to talk to someone you know and not just rely on online communities.

Dr Green adds; “If you want to spend time online, use apps and websites that will help you as a parent. It’s important that we don’t dismiss all social media. Findings from surveys of women, such as ‘Falling Through the Gaps’ (Centre for Mental Health) and ‘Maternal Mental Health – Women’s Voices’, have identified the significant support women with mental health problems experience through specific websites, apps and other forms of social media.”


  • Apps and websites such as “Mush” (www.letsmush.com) and Netmums (www.netmums.com) help you connect with other mums so that you can share the ups and downs of parenting and avoid being isolated.
  • Netmums offers parent supporters and a free online “helping with depressioncourse” based on cognitive behavioural therapy.
  • Websites for charities such as PANDAS Foundation, Maternal OCD and Action on Postpartum Psychosis offer information and support about specific mental health problems. Online forums can link you to other parents with similar problems.
  • Twitter support groups, such as #PNDHour, are invaluable for women and partners to link up with others experiencing similar difficulties.
  • High quality information about various mental health problems during and after pregnancy is available on The Royal College of Psychiatrists Health Advice website and App, and the Tommy’s website. The Baby Buddy App gives has informative video clips.

 

If you need further help consider:

  • Self-referral to your local IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies). These services offer free talking therapies and usually give priority to women during pregnancy and in the first year after birth. You can often take your baby to the appointment. Dads can access IAPT too.
  • Depending on the severity of your mental health problems, you could be referred to a Perinatal Mental Health Service – ask your GP if there is one near you.
  • The Priory Group, the mental healthcare specialists, have Wellbeing Centres for outpatients, and hospitals which can help mothers – and partners – with a range of mental health problems. The Priory Wellbeing Centre in Harley Street has a specialist Parenthood, Pregnancy & Family Life service. Women and partners can be seen from when they start to plan a pregnancy, during pregnancy and any time after birth. Experts offer a range of psychological therapies, including parent-infant, couple and family therapy. Women can also have specialist advice about using medication in pregnancy and breastfeeding. The aim is to help women stay as well as possible and enjoy family life.

 

 

 



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Yoga or you-time? Looking after your mental health in pregnancy

Posted on 31/01/2018 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

 

We all know the importance of staying physically healthy in pregnancy. We know for example that you don’t need an additional donut for the baby, that sadly yes you can still go running and that resting for 9 months is for some reason frowned upon. In addition to looking after our physical wellbeing during pregnancy however, we are increasingly hearing that our mental health is just as important.

 

Most women will notice emotional changes during pregnancy - I for one threw a mug at my husband’s head in a pregnant rage and it is only because I’m an appalling shot that he lived to tell the tale. Some mums-to-be however don’t just experience the normal hormonal highs and lows. Pregnancy is a time that prenatal anxiety or depression can develop.

 

There are however steps you can take to help you have a good emotional experience during pregnancy. Here Claire from Birth Story Listeners gives us her tips for protecting your mental health whilst growing your human:

 

Get connected: They used to say it takes a village to raise a child and while our notion of a village has changed, the sentiment remains the same. These days with many of us living away from our families our village may include our partner, friends, those we meet while pregnant at groups and on social media and medical professionals. It is important to gather your village around you before you give birth – we aren’t designed to do this alone.

 

Be aware of your expectations: It’s great to have high expectations of your care givers and for your labour and birth and it’s good to spend time thinking about your birth preferences. A birth plan can help you get informed about your birth choices and help you feel more in control. But birth can be unpredictable and there are times that things may not turn out exactly as you planned. That doesn’t mean you can’t still have a positive experience but it might help to think in advance how you would cope and what your wishes would be if your plans had to change e.g. if you plan a home birth but have to be transferred to hospital.

 

Work out what’s normal for you: If you understand what is normal for you in terms of your mental health and how you deal with stress then you are more likely to spot early signs of antenatal depression and to be able to get help. Seek advice and support early if you have a pre-existing mental health condition. Similarly seek advice if you are already taking anti-depressants and don’t stop unless you are advised to by your GP.

 

Be kind to yourself: Some women experience symptoms of depression when they aren’t able to live up to their own expectation about their pregnancy or birth, about feeding their baby or how they feel after said baby arrives. Having a baby is a life changing experience. Be kind to yourself and try to have realistic expectations of what your life as a mum will be like.

 

Talk to your partner: It really does help to spend some time talking to your partner about your worries and fears and to find out if they have any! How does your partner react to seeing you in pain ordinarily? How do they deal with stress? Do you like to be fussed over when you are in pain or left alone? Are you direct in asking for what you want or do you expect your partner to just know what you need? Will your partner feel comfortable speaking up for what you want in labour? How will they cope if they feel they can’t solve a problem or find a role? All these things are worth discussing before you give birth.

 

Take positive steps: Eat well, sleep well, see friends, join antenatal groups, plan fun activities, sort out financial or relationship issues before the baby arrives instead of putting things off and learn to say no if necessary.

 

Most importantly of all, if you find you are anxious, fearful and down, don’t suffer in silence, speak to your midwife.

 

Birth Story Listeners run a local peer support group in North Wales to support women who have had a difficult time in childbirth. Find out more at https://www.facebook.com/groups/birthstorylisteners/



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Mum-to-be? 5 things you need to know

Posted on 16/11/2017 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

I have been a mum for almost 10 years which is scary because it feels like approximately 10 minutes. Far scarier however is the fact that I still have no clue what I am on with. When you have a baby you have a firm belief that it is the hardest thing in the world. Why won’t she sleep? Is she eating enough? For the love of God, how do I know I am doing this right? When you have a 9 year old you realise that unfortunately that was the easy bit and it is over. Contemplating a teenage version actually brings me out in hives.

 

The wiser among you probably have already worked out that there is no `right’ and are happy bumbling along and doing your best. You can stop reading and go and pointlessly shuffle some toys from one room to another in the name of tidying. For those who are a bit slower on the uptake, I give you some tips on the five things you should probably avoid lest you are driven insane:

 

  • Do not Google ANYTHING: For every expert who instructs you to lock your child in their bedroom as soon as the clock strikes 6.30pm and to not return even if they scream until they vomit, there will be another who says you should co-sleep until they are 10. Last night my youngest suggested he had a pain in his leg – 3 hours later I had diagnosed him with leukaemia. Everyone has an opinion and they are all conflicting. Save yourself a world of pain and step away from the search engine.
  • Keep your lies simple: In the early seventies I am absolutely convinced that Santa was responsible for all items delivered so why should 2009 be any different? That was an error. Raised eyebrows from child free disgruntled relatives who don’t get a thank you because the kids firmly believe that Santa got them that overpriced scooter anyone? And how do we return the roller skates that the silly man sent 4 sizes too small? I urge you to keep it simple. He brings the stockings. That is all. And similarly with the tooth fairy. How cute I thought it was to craft a little note from said fairy. But bloody Amber’s mother didn’t write her a note. Damn her. Cue endless questions about why the tooth fairy doesn’t like Amber.
  • Breastfeeding? Quick, give them a bottle: I loved breastfeeding but it is quite a responsibility being the one in charge of keeping them alive. Now truth be told, I am not big on going out - pyjamas and Doc Martin on Catch Up are more my scene but I did have tickets to see Tiffany off the telly in My Fair Lady. I was quite looking forward to it. I had expressed and given Evie a bottle early on but then, to be honest, I just didn’t bother. I was pretty sure she had mastered that whole bottle thing and expressing made me feel like an unattractive cow. Imagine my horror when she turned her tiny nose up at the bottle I proffered and screamed her lungs out. Alas, I had missed `the window’. I missed Tiff and then there was no escape. The bottle was permanently rejected. If you don’t want to be in sole charge, don’t make my mistake. Regularly offer your milk in a bottle.
  • Lower your sleep expectations: At the first meet up of our antenatal group post baby, we were alarmed by one of our number going round the table demanding, wild eyed, to know whether our babies were sleeping through the night. Sleep deprived she most certainly was but it was clear that she was feeling that either her or the baby were failing. Babies are supposed to sleep through the night right? Wrong. They are not. My eldest did at twelve weeks but my youngest didn’t manage it until he was nearly five. No one would say that it isn’t hard but you have not failed and your baby is not playing you up. He just needs you. It may feel like an age when you are a sleep deprived zombie but trust me, it will pass. 
  • Buy five identical soft toys: You haven’t known heartbreak until your child has lost the mangled filthy piece of cloth formally recognisable as a monkey. Monkey had several lucky escapes. We once found him perched in the broccoli at Morrisons. Another time a member of staff took pity on us and posted him back from the Sea Life Centre. Alas like the proverbial cat he ran out of lives and is no more. Save yourself. Buy five monkeys.
I trust the 5 things I have learnt in ten years will be of use to you. Go with your gut, know there is no such thing as perfect and try and enjoy every precious minute. Ten years will go by in the blink of an eye.



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10 things your midwife wants you to know

Posted on 19/10/2017 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

When I was pregnant with my first child I decided to have a home birth. To be honest I was taken aback at the level of hysteria this provoked among my nearest and dearest, “Are you crazy? What is wrong with you? Get thee to a hospital where no harm can befall you!” As it turns out there was absolutely nothing wrong with me and my baby was born in our living room with no drama, an experience marred only by the fact that Bon Jovi was on the radio as she popped out. I had put my faith in my body but also let’s face it, trusted that my midwife knew what she was on with. And she did. Turns out she had delivered quite a few babies and was a bit of an expert in all things child birth related – who knew? So who better to listen to in the run up to your birth than a midwife? Here, our midwife Nina tells you the top ten things she wants you to know about your pregnancy and birth:

 

1.   Always trust your instincts

If you’re anxious that your baby isn’t moving as much as usual, make sure you get it checked out. If you’ve been given advice that doesn’t sit right with you, seek a second opinion. You don’t have to say yes to things you don’t agree with and similarly your care should be tailored to suit you and your needs.

 

2.   Focus on your own pregnancy

What is normal for others may not be normal for you. Try not to be negatively influenced by others experiences or be drawn into competitive comparisons. Be prepared for things to change in pregnancy and birth and try to stay open minded. Try not to set too many expectations as some women are left with a sense of failure when things don’t go to their original plan. Instead, prepare your preferences and discuss with your midwife how you can achieve and apply these to different scenarios.

 

3.   We’re not judging you

You will be offered lots of advice from your midwife in an effort to empower you with evidence to make an informed choice. We know that what is right for some, won’t suit others. We want to support you with the choices you make.

 

4.   No question is too trivial

If you are anxious or uncertain about anything relating to your pregnancy, birth or newborn no question is too silly. It is far more preferable to ask your midwife than Dr Google. We may not always have the answer but we have a wealth of evidence based resources and solid working relations with multidisciplinary colleagues to turn to for answers,

 

5.   Embrace non-pharmacological coping strategies

Labouring using Hypnobirthing, relaxation techniques and water helps you stay calm, relax and feel in control.

 

6.   Always carry your pregnancy notes with you

Accidents are accidental and you never know when you’ll need to see a midwife or Doctor urgently.

 

7.   Learn about the changes that will happen to your body at different phases of pregnancy and labour

It will help you to understand and interpret the different feelings and sensations you will experience. It will also reduce stress and anxiety relating to these feelings and sensations. For example, stress and anxiety inhibits the natural flow of oxytocin which enables your uterus to contract and labour effectively.

 

8.   Ensure you have a supportive birth partner(s)

Choose someone who you can ‘let go’ with. Someone who will help you stay hydrated, energised and focused. Someone who may be able to offer words of encouragement, massage or even just maintain a quiet presence. Someone who just knowing they are there makes you feel safe.

 

9.   Don’t be rushed into making decisions

Ensure you have all the information you need to give consent or agree to a procedure. If you’re not sure what’s happening, ask the midwife to stop and explain:  What will it achieve? Why is it important? How will it happen? What are the risks? Some aspects of birth can feel like a blur, it is important to feel empowered and informed about your experience.

 

10. Take time to get to know your baby

Skin to skin is a fantastic way to bond with your baby, keeping them warm whilst ‘drinking in’ every detail of your newborn.



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Planning a VBAC after a Caesarean

Posted on 14/09/2017 by Antenatal Online | Leave a Comment

Vaginal birth benefits mum and baby both physically and psychologically and having a one C-section doesn’t necessarily mean that will be your only option for subsequent babies. How you feel about VBAC however will depend a lot on the circumstances leading up to your caesarean birth, such as:-

  • Whether the baby was breech or in an unstable position
  • Was there presumed slow progress/ failure to progress in labour?
  • Fetal distress
  • Whether you had twin or multiple birth
  • Placenta malposition

Only you can decide whether you want to try for a VBAC but it is well worth talking to your midwife or obstetrician as they will be able to advise and support you.

Many hospitals will offer a birth choice clinic where they can talk you through the statistics and give advice based on local and national guidelines (National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE)). There are also several other organisations that can support you and help you make an informed choice. These include the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), The Positive Birth Movement or AIMS.

It’s important to remember that whilst guidelines and protocols are in place, you are under no obligation to comply. You will still be supported in your choices and will be eligible to be cared for by the hospital and midwifery team of your choice in the setting you choose.

Most hospitals will recommend that your VBAC takes place on an Obstetrician- led Labour ward with continuous electronic fetal monitoring and will recommend Intravenous (IV) access which involves a cannula in the back of the hand that can be readily attached to a drip in the event of an emergency. This may not be how you envisaged your birth to happen. Most units will have a birth centre lead midwife and/ or a consultant midwife who can design a birth plan with you to suit your needs and wishes. You can opt to be supported by your midwife in a home birth setting or on the birth centre if you wish. You can also opt to not have IV access - the risk of a sudden emergency in VBAC labour isn’t much difference to any other labour and IV access can easily and quickly be sited by the medical team if necessary.

What are the risks of a VBAC?

VBAC can be safer due to increased risks of infection with Caesarean section. With repetitive Lower Segment Caesarean Sections (LSCS) there is an increased risk of placenta praevia in future pregnancies and therefore an increased chance of an emergency hysterectomy.

The risk associated with VBAC and scar rupture (when the previous scar opens and causes bleeding) is 0.35% and the risk of scar dehiscence (when the previous scar becomes thinner and begins to separate) is 0.5%.

These risks are slightly lower if there is a longer time frame between pregnancies. These risks can be monitored closely in labour through careful observation of your pulse rate, baby’s heart rate and observing for scar pain or bleeding. It is important to be cared for on a 1:1 basis by your midwife.

How can I improve my chances of a VBAC?

Approximately 70% of women who opt for VBAC are successful. You can optimise your chances of a successful VBAC by:-

  • Discussing and formulating a birth plan with your midwife
  • Waiting for spontaneous onset of labour (Induction of labour increases the chance of scar dehiscence)
  • Opt for intermittent monitoring of your baby’s heartbeat- NICE guidance recommends continuous electronic fetal monitoring however the Cochrane review found that continuous electronic fetal monitoring is not more effective and does not reduce mortality or morbidity.
  • Stay upright, mobile and ensure you have a supportive birth partner.

 

Nina, Antenatal Online Midwife

 



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