There is a popular saying which goes as “It takes a village to raise a child”. I will go on to say that it takes the entire community, to help a new mother navigate through her new role, as she continues to with the daily humdrum of life.
In the previous articles, I have spoken about the need for acknowledging the importance of paying attention to maternal mental health. In today’s article, we will talk about some steps that can be taken by the different social agencies in the community, to support the new mother’s mental & emotional well-being.
To begin with, changes need to be implemented at the nursing homes, maternity wards, and gynecological centers. Even at the best of maternity care centers, there is a total absence of mental health professionals, who could assess a new mother’s emotional well-being, within the first 3-4 days of childbirth.
The first few days are crucial, as most of the symptom onset happens at that time. Even if we are talking about transient baby blues, it helps to have support at our end. MHPs visiting new mothers should be looked upon as a practice, which is as normal as physiotherapists visiting new mothers.
At the family front, members of the family need to become adaptive toward the new mother’s needs, be it physical or emotional. Simple measures such as restricting visitor count for the day post-delivery, ensuring a proper diet for the new mother, providing some me-time to the mother, looking after the newborn, etc. are just some simple ways to do that, which go a long way in easing the emotional overwhelm, which a new mother deals with.
Friends and peers, often form the crux of the social support system which a new mother needs. Once again, simple steps like taking along some cooked food for the house, particularly if the new mother is living in a nuclear family; calling in and checking up before dropping by to visit the newborn; offering help with ferrying around the newborn and mother for vaccinations or doctor’s visits, when the father is occupied, are measures that provide not just practical support but also take some load off the new mother, who is already burdened by several duties.
At the society level, it is imperative that community centers are developed and maintained to provide a safe space, where new mothers can get together to bond and share lived experiences. Support groups can be built and moderated by mothers and/or MHPs who understand the complexities of the emotional repertoire that a new mother has to deal with.
Awareness drives can be conducted by religious institutions, social groups, & other community stakeholders, on the topic of maternal mental health.
In conclusion, it would suffice to say that looking after one’s emotional health post-delivery, is not just a new mother’s prerogative but is as much the responsibility of the social, familial & cultural ecosystem, which she is a part.