A recent study led by Silje Marie Haga, from the University of Oslo, Norway, suggests that older first time mothers might be vulnerable to post natal depression not because of their physical age but because they are used to being in control of their lives.
As an older-mother-to-be you might have an established career and daily routine. The upheaval a newborn brings could come as quite a shock after years of personal freedom and living life on your terms. So an older mother might become more distressed when things don’t turn out as planned.
Motherhood might initially feel like a complete severance from your old life. This could result in a type of identity crisis and increase your vulnerability to depression. If you find your self feeling depressed or highly anxious seek help immediately from your GP and health visitor.
Here are some further tips for lessening the chance of a negative emotional impact when the new baby arrives …
1. Self awareness: Identify whether you are going to be more vulnerable to depression based on your life history and personality. Have you had depression before? Are you experiencing depression during your pregnancy? Are you a high achiever? Do you like to be in control? Have a reassuring discussion with your GP if you are worried about becoming depressed after the birth. You will be able to plan together a course of action should anything go awry.
2. Acceptance: Become aware that the world you have been used to is going to change dramatically. Start to visualise letting go of your old life and become more focused on the present moment. If you think you have problems with control it might be beneficial to see a counsellor who could help you learn to relax and let go.
3. During your pregnancy start a self care program of gentle exercise, relaxation and meditation.
4. Make sure you are eating a balanced diet with as much fresh foods as possible. Include nutrients proven to deter low mood; omega 3 oils (oily fish, seeds and nuts), magnesium (leafy green vegetables and seeds) and zinc (seeds and nuts).
5. Make sure you have your affairs in order. For example have you renewed your car’s breakdown cover? Comprehensive cover will give you peace of mind should you suffer a breakdown when taking your precious cargo on outdoor adventures.
6. Establish support from your partner, friends and family.
7. If you can afford it enlist the help of a maternity nurse or post natal doula for the first month or so after the birth
1. If you feel you aren’t coping, talk to your health visitor and GP immediately.
2. It will be harder to find time to exercise with the demands of a new baby. Use feeding times as an opportunity to meditate and go for walks with the baby in a pram or sling.
3. Try to include calming activities that stimulate the feel good hormone oxytocin; massage, acupuncture, meditation, yoga, tai chi, a warm bath and a good, supportive hug from loved ones.
4. Rest and sleep when you can. Sleep when baby sleeps; a cliche but very true. If it’s possible enlist help from friends and family so you can get some invaluable time to yourself to rest and recuperate.
5. See your friends and network with other mums. Join bumps to babies groups. Being a mum can be lonely and isolating and left unchecked can lead to depression.
6. Maintain a good balance diet. Cut down on caffeine, especially if you are breastfeeding, and refined sugar. Drink plenty of water and/or calming teas like chamomile.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to feel in control especially when faced with the unknown. However a more relaxed approach to motherhood with undefined expectations could help you cope more resiliently with the unexpected challenges a newborn inevitably brings, and lessen the chance of depression.
This is a guest editorial.