Any mum will tell you that motherhood is an incredibly rewarding experience. But it can also be challenging. And for some, it can take a toll on one's mental health. According to research, one in five women experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or within the first year of giving birth. The good news is that it's not an isolated case and there are so many effective ways to support one's mental health during motherhood.
But first, let's look at the science of motherhood and better understand how this transformative experience actually changes the brain:
1. Structural Changes in the Brain
Pregnancy and motherhood cause significant structural changes in the brain. According to a study published in Nature Neuroscience, these changes include an increase in gray matter volume in brain regions involved in social cognition, empathy, and reward-processing.
Additionally, researchers have found that the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain responsible for decision-making and problem-solving, undergoes significant changes during pregnancy and motherhood.
2. Hormonal Changes
Pregnancy and childbirth cause significant hormonal changes too. During pregnancy, levels of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone increase dramatically, while levels of stress hormones like cortisol also rise. After giving birth, levels of these hormones shift again, with a drop in estrogen and progesterone and a surge in oxytocin, also known as the "love hormone".
3. Emotional Changes
Becoming a mother can bring about a wide range of emotions, from joy and love to anxiety and fear. Research shows that these emotions are linked to the changes in the brain and hormones mentioned above. For example, oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding and trust, plays a role in promoting maternal behavior and attachment to the baby. Conversely, high levels of stress hormones can lead to postpartum depression and anxiety.
Therefore, maintaining mental health during motherhood is a must. It's important to note that many mothers suffer in silence and that just shouldn't be the case. Singer Adele has spoken publicly about her struggles with postpartum depression after the birth of her son. In an interview with Vanity Fair, she said, "I had really bad postpartum depression after I had my son, and it frightened me… I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I was very reluctant… Four of my friends felt the same way I did, and everyone was too embarrassed to talk about it."
It's important to talk about your feelings and emotions with trusted loved ones. Bottling up emotions can lead to feelings of isolation and stress. Additionally, speaking with a mental health professional can be beneficial in learning how to cope with difficult emotions and navigate the ups and downs of motherhood.
Remember, taking care of yourself is vital for both you and your family's wellbeing. So, talk to a friend or treat yourself. All mums surely deserve a little break and some treats. No mum guilt allowed here!
May is Mental Health Awareness Month and at MyTreat, we're dedicated to providing helpful resources to those struggling with mental health issues. Through our blog, we aim to provide informative articles on various types of mental health problems and ways to overcome them. However, if your problems persists, we highly recommend speaking to a professional. What we do offer professionally are monthly self-care subscription boxes designed to help you take care of yourself and prioritise your mental wellbeing. These boxes also make an excellent gift for someone who could use a little extra care and support.