Dads can feel lost too
Fathers aren’t immune from the cloak of invisibility.
“Fathers often describe how, not only do they feel invisible to their family and friends because all the focus is on the baby, but how they feel invisible in relation to their relationship with their partner,” explains Dr Highet.
“The baby becomes the main priority in the mother’s life, so fathers can feel quite relegated.”
She adds that, at the same time, fathers feel a real pressure to be more actively involved and hands-on in parenting.
However, some new mothers can feel they are better equipped to care for the baby and that can add tension within the relationship.
“Not all new fathers have role models on how to be active and engaged parents because it wasn’t expected of their own father,” adds Dr Highet.
Parent expectations versus reality
“Many women expect pregnancy and new motherhood to be an absolutely wonderful time and the reality is often far from that for a lot them,” says Dr Highet.
She says that the problem occurs when women don’t feel they can openly talk about what they are going through out of fear that they will be judged.
“This is why new motherhood is such a vulnerable time,” she emphasises.
Dr Highet recommends that women consider what support mechanisms they can put in place while they are pregnant.
“It’s all about prevention,” she adds.
Dr Highet recommends women sign up to Ready to COPE.
“It’s really a guide where we talk about managing your expectations of pregnancy and early parenthood and being proactive in building your support network.”
She also recommends being aware of the common signs of stress, anxiety and depression.
For women who have experienced any of these, she says that is it useful for them to reflect and think of the signs and symptoms they previously experienced.
“It is important to get on top of mental health issues early, instead of waiting until you hit that crisis point,” she adds.
“In pregnancy and during the post-natal period, it’s very easy to put those feelings down to just being hormonal or just being tired, but we know from our own research that 74 per cent of mothers who experienced anxiety or depression didn’t reach out for support until they reached crisis point.”
Dr Highet recommends for new mothers to build their village.
“The Mama Tribe is an online mother-led community of over 50,000 members and over 40 locations across Australia,” she explains.
“We really encourage mothers to find their tribe during pregnancy, and each Mama Tribe has their own ambassador who has been trained in emotional and mental health to provide support to new mothers.”
She adds that having good relationships with health professionals, like having a GP that you trust, can be greatly beneficial.
Finally, she recommends keeping an eye on other new mothers.
“If there is someone in your parent group that, for example, suddenly stops attending and becomes withdrawn, these can be signs that they might be struggling to cope.
“It’s important to be proactive, people often worry about what others might think about them if they find out that they’re struggling with any aspect of new motherhood, so it’s important to reach out if you think someone needs helps.”