Every quarter of a second, a woman gives birth somewhere in the world. That’s about 353,000 new babies every day, and more than 128 million a year. Each birth is a precious moment. The culmination of nine months of check-ups and classes, preparation and planning.
And following the birth, our focus understandably shifts to the baby and its development. But what about the post-partum mother? It is a critical time for them too. It’s a point when they are both physically and emotionally drained, and yet must try to put that aside to focus on their child. Maternal health can end up taking a back seat.
It is a 24-hour job and one which many mothers can end up asking themselves – ‘am I doing it right?’
The crucial first month
During those initial months after giving birth, mothers can often feel lost, anxious and overwhelmed. Exhaustion is commonplace. Nearly 80% of new moms are sleep deprived, affecting how they think and cope. “No matter how efficient, precise and rational you were before, you become entirely without memory, without a sense of time…a little numb,” says Giovanna, a new mother.
Worldwide about 13% of women who have just given birth experience a mental disorder, primarily depression. In developing countries this is even higher, at almost 20%. And many mothers suffering from post-natal depression may not seek medical help. In the UK, approximately 58% of new mothers did not see a health professional, often due to them not understanding the condition or fearing the consequences of reporting the problem.
It is therefore critical in the challenging first weeks and months after they’ve given birth, that new mothers get the validation, support and understanding they need. While we focus on the health and happiness of the baby, we shouldn’t forget the health and happiness of the mom.
Especially in the first month after birth, that ‘10th month’, we should remember to ask the new mother one important question – How are you?