Perinatal Mental Health
Both myself and Jenni have personal experience of perinatal mental health conditions. I’ve written before about my experience of post-natal depression and the wonderful Paul Webster wrote about his experience of paternal mental health. Many of the people we speak to have personal experience of antenatal and postnatal depression, anxiety and other conditions. In the UK it is estimated that more than 1 in 10 mothers will develop a mental illness whilst pregnant or in the first year after having a baby, and new research suggests that the figures are similar for fathers. Whilst previously this may have been swept under the rug and parents left to struggle, more and more people are speaking openly about their mental health struggles in order to shed light on what is a widespread issue.
How can carrying affect perinatal mental health?
Carrying your baby can be a simple and low cost intervention which can have a profound impact on your mental health.
Many of the benefits of slings can have a huge practical impact. If you are concerned about being able to care for your child, having them close can help you read their cues. Carrying them can help you chat with them and build a whole new relationship. Slings and carriers can give you your hands back to eat, to drink, to take care of yourself. Carrying your baby can help you leave the house when everything feels overwhelming. Slinging your baby can help you calm them when other options have been exhausted. Carrying can help you cope with the demands of more than one child.
If you are struggling with the day to day reality of coping with mental health issues and a baby or child, a simple tool to give you your hands and freedom to move back can be very valuable. What seems like a small change could have a profound knock on affect.
Beyond the practical there are many emotional impacts of carrying a baby, for you and for your baby as well. Carrying, especially skin to skin, helps release the hormone oxytocin, which can have a positive impact on everything from breastfeeding to bonding and help your mood too. Using a sling can help you feel like you are able to achieve something positive with your baby when you are feeling overwhelmed. Slings and carriers can be an expression of who you are through colour and design which helps you reconnect with who you were prior to children. Carrying can help you get outside, and fresh air and walking in nature has been shown to have a great positive impact on mental health. Slings can get you out to meet friends, or to take part in hobbies which would otherwise be inaccessible, allowing you to reconnect with people and places which are important to you. The sling community is often amazing and can lead to deep and long lasting friendships, as well as a level of support that is less common in our modern society. Carrying can start with the practical, and end with building bonds.
If you are struggling with the day to day aspects of being a parent whilst coping with mental illness, the practical help that a sling can offer you can become more than just a practical tool. It can be a lifeline that connects you to a support network you didn’t know was there, or a connection back to your family and friends. It can be the thing which keeps your child close when you don’t want to be apart, or the tool which helps you bond with them.
If you are looking to try a sling but don’t where to start, why not see if there is a local sling library or sling consultant. If you don’t want to see someone face to face or can’t get to sessions then It’s A Sling Thing can provide phone, Skype or email consultations and postal hire to help you try different options. We love helping families identify options which could work for them.
We have heard from many parents about how slings have been useful tools for coping with a whole range of perinatal mental health issues in both parents, and we are lucky to have experienced the powerful affects first hand.
Where can I go for assistance?
If you are concerned about your mental health please do reach out for assistance. You have many more options out there than ever before, although many people still feel a stigma attached to admitted they need mental health support.
You can always see your GP who should be able to prescribe both medication and talking therapy. Your local area may have an Improving Access to Psychological Therapies service which you can self refer into.
If you have other resources you have found valuable please drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get them added to this article.