Being a new mum is tough at the best of times, but in a pandemic, even worse. You’re either ace-ing life as a new mum, or you’re not coping and suffering from post-natal depression.
A recent study by The Mum Club, the modern day mumsnet, which launched just this week with a new e-zine, forum and franchise option for mums, found that 89% of mums relate to Meghan Markle’s feelings of loneliness and anxiety and that 51% said they couldn’t speak to anyone about it.
Ross J Barr, a leading acupuncturist (and the man who treated Meghan Markle when she lived in London), says a psychological MOT is an essential appointment that all new mums need to make.
So, is it normal to feel low after birth?
“Yes!”, says Ross, “When I see people that feel post-natally down, it is often linked to blood deficiency and exhaustion, which most mums have. Interestingly if you look up the symptoms for anaemia, they are pretty much the same as depression. One of the biggest causes of post-natal depression is that women are generally anaemic.
“Quite often in the period after birth, you don’t feel like you’re residing in yourself, you just go on autopilot, and a part of this comes from a primal instinct, and for the rest of it, you’re just bumbling along and making it up as you go along”.
Can tiredness make me feel more emotional?
“Absolutely”, says Ross, “Tiredness causes the body to run on adrenaline. You’re overtly risk accessing, and you’re running on reserve power. Of course, it will affect your emotions. It can also cause you to catastrophise and create ‘what ifs?’, that’s what adrenaline does for us”.
Can my baby feel my emotions?
“If your internal state is not at peace, sooner or later, your children’s internal state can be affected by it. They can pick up on your emotions, and even if you think you’re creating a great veil over it, your kids can pick up on it”, says Ross.
Do all women feel low after birth?
“I would say there’s definitely a trend with the women I see, and it’s a combination of depletion, blood loss and shock. When you get depleted, you feel like a weaker version of yourself, and you’re more vulnerable. It’s important to nourish the mum and to fortify her. I see mums that have been bleeding for 6 weeks, and they wonder why they’re exhausted. But of course, you would be”.
The sole purpose of The Mum Club is to try and eradicate feelings of loneliness and isolation. Founders Jessica and Lauren started the club back in 2016 because they discovered the level of care for new mums was seriously lacking.
“We found there wasn’t anything that spoke to us as women after we had children. It’s one of the main reasons we created TMC”, say founders Lauren Webber and Jessica Lawes.
“With 89% of mums saying they felt lonely at least once since giving birth. It’s important that now, more than ever, we look after each other”.
“We’d go to these baby classes, and while they were entertaining for the children, we’d leave having spoken to no-one and feeling emptier in a way. This experience drove us to create TMC – because we didn’t want anyone to ever feel like that”.
What is a post-natal psychological MOT?
Ross says: “A post-natal psychological MOT can help the body to rebalance and reset itself, as well as relieving stress and anxiety post-birth. Using acupuncture, we treat the shock, and often blood loss, of labour, by pinpointing areas that would benefit from stimulation or need calming”, says Ross.
He adds, “There are particular points in acupuncture that are aimed to treat shock and trauma. It is not a luxury that’s reserved for celebrities. This is an essential treatment that anyone can access”.
What can you expect from a post-natal psychological MOT?
Approx. 45 minutes of necessary YOU time, where you lie down on a comfy bed, and the acupuncturist treats your mental and physical state.
“First, we check your pulse points, which lasts for around 5-10 minutes. This is a key factor for achieving a good diagnosis, as it enables you to see what’s going on internally”, says Ross.
Next, the acupuncturist selects points based on any symptoms that the client reports combined with the analysis of your pulses.
The painless needles are placed in for roughly 10-20mins. Some will be in for longer than others.
Ross says, “Often a mum will come in, and if we do it right, then her tired, ashy complexion will change from start to finish. Usually, you will leave feeling brighter but looking it too!”
When should I have it?
“I usually encourage mums to come in two weeks after they’ve given birth”, says Ross. “By then the newborn bubble has gone, hormones have levelled, and adrenaline falls away, and we can generally start to see how deficient someone is and the areas that need focussing on”.
Why would I need one?
The aftercare UK mums receive post-birth is next to nothing. “There’s a lovely saying in Chinese medicine that the best way to stop a crying baby is to treat the mother, and that is the basis for a lot of what we try and do. We initiate the mother to focus on herself more, this is for the benefit of her baby. It’s not a selfish act, it’s a necessary one”, says Ross.
Ross’s advice on tackling feelings of depression and anxiety post-birth
1. Support yourself pre and postnatally. Make sure you’re well supplemented during pregnancy, so your body is stronger and more able to cope with both labour and the feelings you will experience post-natally.
Try: Dr Ross J Barr Female Pregnancy Formula, £32.
2. Book in for a physiological MOT. Even just one appointment will help support your body’s recovery process. You’re the most important person in your child’s life right now. This is not a luxury. It is essential maintenance.
3. Nourish yourself. Follow the basics of healthy living, and don’t skip a meal. Take as many calories as you need.
4. Build a wall of care. Let other people do things for you, allow yourself to let go of responsibility and don’t feel bad about taking time for you.
5. View doing nothing differently. When you’re adrenalised, it makes it difficult for you to sit down and relax. Doing nothing is not a defeat. Do this for as long as you feel you have a greater capacity to fit other stuff in.
6. Accept the change. People try to maintain the same life that they had pre-kids, and I think once you accept life is different, you will find peace more easily.
7. Take a 15-20 mins nap in the day. Shutting down for a 15-20 min nap or being still during the day will help put all of the cortisol and adrenaline back in its box. It doesn’t mean you won’t be able to sleep later. It just recharges you.
8. Nap at the beginning of your baby’s sleep. A) You’re less likely to be woken up, but b) you’ll also find it easier to drift off. Ever run around the house cleaning and then tried to sleep? It’s almost impossible, as, by the time you’ve calmed down your system, your baby is awake. Sleep breeds sleep. Do it at the start, and then you’re in a better place to take things on.
9. Choose tea over coffee. Drinking coffee is like putting all of your issues into nuclear waste. You get into a cycle thinking you need a cup to have energy, and it becomes an addiction. There’s an ingredient in the coffee bean that causes the cells in our kidneys to expand quite aggressively. It triggers an adrenaline release, which means we run on our reserves, and it is not good for the body especially when we’re overtired. Can’t give it up? Ross adds, “You prematurely age when you run on adrenaline. Usually, If I tell my clients that, it stops them in their tracks. There’s nothing wrong with a good old cup of tea, so I’d opt for a few of those instead”.
The Mum Club has partnered with PANDAS on its launch to raise awareness for those struggling with their post-partum mental health.
*PANDAS provide free support services for parents struggling with their perinatal mental health. Their free helpline (0808 1961 776) offers support Mon-Fri. They offer peer to peer support for every parent, with lived, work and academic experience best placed to support families in their times of need. For more information, head to www.pandasfoundation.org.uk