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Life-changing impact of becoming a parent

Becoming a parent is life-changing, and you experience every emotion – the highs, lows, and everything in-between. If you’ve become a new parent over the last 2 years, you may have also experienced a lack of support, isolation, and worries about your baby’s health. All these factors can contribute to poor mental health in new parents. Glenys Jackson – Bupa’s Clinical Lead for Mental Health – explains why more parents have turned to ‘Dr Google’ for their postpartum worries:

An analysis into new parents’ searching habits by Bupa UK Insurance has found a sharp rise in searches for postpartum mental health conditions in late 2021[1].

  • 350% more searches over the last 12 months for ‘have I got postnatal depression’ on Google
  • 143% more people searched on Google for ‘intrusive thoughts postpartum’
  • 100% increase in Google searches for ‘signs of postpartum anxiety’

Glenys Jackson warns new parents about the importance of finding support in the first few weeks of parenthood:

“It’s no surprise that more parents have turned to Google to find support for their concerns and worries. New mums and dads may be at a greater risk of experiencing changes to their wellbeing, especially having experienced uncertainty and the isolation of lockdown.

If you’ve recently become a parent or are due to give birth soon, you may be feeling isolated, lonely, or anxious. These feelings, emotions and thoughts are completely understandable, as the pandemic has placed a greater strain on new mums and dads.

“Without the right support at the right time, your wellbeing can be affected during pregnancy and beyond, especially within the first six weeks after the birth of your baby. So, it’s crucial to raise awareness of where new parents can find the right support for their worries. For example, speak to your GP if you’re worried, or find support online from reputable resources, including Bupa’s mental health hub.”

According to Bupa’s research, there has been a rise in new parents experiencing postpartum mental health conditions:

  1. Postpartum anxiety

It’s natural to worry after the birth of your little one, but sometimes it’s something more. Our new research has found a 30% rise in new parents searching ‘postpartum anxiety’ on Google during 2021. If you’re experiencing intense feelings of worry, dread, or racing thoughts, you may have postpartum anxiety.

Postpartum anxiety may increase as a response to real stressors – whether it’s the health of the new baby, finances, or balancing a new dynamic in the relationship with your partner.

  1. Postpartum depression

At a time when everyone expects you to be feeling happy, you may be feeling very low. With a 48% increase in searches for ‘postpartum depression symptoms’ and 24% more searches for ‘postnatal depression in dads’, it’s important to reach out for support if you’re experiencing a persistent low mood, completely lacking in energy and you have problems concentrating.

You may find it hard or even impossible to get into a routine or cope with your new baby, as well as feeling detached and unable to bond with them. All of these are warning signs of postpartum depression.

  1. Postpartum OCD

Over the last year, there has been a 24% increase in searches on Google for ‘postnatal OCD’.

Symptoms of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder include intrusive thoughts (upsetting, frightening and repetitive thoughts related to your new baby), fear of being left alone and compulsions such as cleaning constantly. It’s important to speak to a healthcare professional – or a loved one – if you’re experiencing these symptoms.

  1. Postnatal psychosis

When experiencing postpartum psychosis, you may have rapid mood changes, feel disorientated, and unable to sleep. You might also experience delusions or hallucinations. Postpartum psychosis is a serious but rare mental health problem which develops after you give birth. It can be both overwhelming and frightening, so it’s important to find the right support.

  1. Postnatal PTSD

You may experience postnatal PTSD after a difficult or traumatic labour, which can have a negative effect on both your mental health and relationship with your new baby. You may suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, and intense distress. Your experiences may also make you feel anxious about having another baby in future.

How to support your partner through the postpartum period, according to Bupa’s Glenys Jackson:

The postpartum period after birth affects the whole family, so it’s important to understand how to support your partner during this difficult time.

Take the time to reassure your partner that it isn’t their fault if they’re experiencing mental health conditions, and they’re not alone. Listen without judgement and encourage your partner to open-up at their own pace.

Also, help them to reach out to others for support and treatment, whether this is through friends who have had children, family, or their doctor. Finally, offer practical support, such as doing the housework and making meals for the both of you”.

[1] Source: data provided by Google from December 2020 to November 2021. Based on an internal Bupa analysis of Google search data.


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