By Jody Toomer
Having my baby girl was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and the best thing I’ve ever done. It really is true when people say: nothing can prepare you for the ups and downs you will experience as a first-time mum.
Mental Health in Pregnancy
Leading up to the delivery, I read all sorts of books and articles about giving birth, labor and what to expect in the months after delivery. I downloaded apps, joined chat groups, watched YouTube videos, and of course talked to all the women in my life who could offer me some advice. Looking back however, I realize that there was one aspect of pregnancy and birth that I did not research: mental health disorder. Most of my focus was on the physical aspect of giving birth, rather than how I would feel and mentally cope once my daughter had arrived.
Post-Natal Depression: You Are Not Alone
Looking back at my post-delivery days, I realize now how overwhelmed I felt. With my hormones still all over the place and dealing with sleep deprivation, little wonder my anxiety levels soared. I felt like I had no control over my life anymore, and, as selfish as it seems, I really struggled to let go of my freedom. I am not ashamed to say that it wasn’t until my daughter was 3 months old that I truly felt attached to her. By this time, we had established a routine and I felt more confident about my skills and abilities as a mother.
It is important to understand that my case is not unusual or uncommon, and if this resonates with you or you identify with my situation, it does not mean you are not a good mother. We need to acknowledge the huge adjustments taking place, not just physically, but also emotionally and mentally before and after the birth.
Getting Support Away from Home
I used to live in England, and although being so far away from my family is difficult, having a close group of friends and a good social support network really helps. Qatar has such a good expat community. Everyone here is in the same position in that we are all away from our families, and we are just trying to make the most of our time here. There really is so much support out there, and people who are willing to listen and lend a hand.
Tips for Overcoming Post-Natal Depression
Please do not be afraid to reach out and ask for help. I have come to realize that however alone you feel, once you start talking about it, it is amazing how many women are going through the exact same mental health issues. It is important to note that men can also suffer from post-natal depression, and the symptoms and feelings are not unique to women. There are many resources open to everyone in Qatar, but the best place to start is your doctor. Sometimes just talking to someone impartial can help enormously.
Here are some of the strategies that helped me overcome post-natal depression
– they can help you too:
- Essential oils:
- Lavender promotes calm and relaxation. Pour a few drops into a bath, or just sprinkle it on a tissue to keep under your pillow.
- Orange is great for easing feelings of stress and worry. It is uplifting and promotes optimism. You can place a few drops in an oil burner.
- Clary Sage is a great oil for easing depression, anxiety and fear. (Do not use if you have low blood pressure or are currently pregnant).
- Gentle exercise such as yoga. There are some great post-natal yoga videos on Youtube that are only 10 or 15 minutes long.
- Going for a walk, outside or around the mall. A change of scenery can do wonders for your mood.
- Coffee with friends.
- Watch a funny movie.
- Counselling—your doctor will be able to recommend a therapist.
There are a number of great Facebook groups and support communities here in Qatar, such as:
- Positive Birth Group Doha: lots of valuable advice and helpful information from other mums;
- Qatar Expat Women: they often have coffee mornings and get-togethers;
- Doha Mums: an online community offering playgroups, coffee mornings, trips around Doha and much more.
Places and Institutions:
- Hamad Medical Corporation Mental Health Service;
- The Women’s Mental Health Division at Sidra.
There is still stigma and shame around post-natal depression. But the more we talk about it and see how common it really is, the more people we can help. Every woman’s experience of this phase is unique to her, and experiencing depression does not make you a bad mother. Don’t be afraid to reach out. With a little help, you can overcome post-natal depression.