More than 1 in 10 women will experience a perinatal mental health problem during pregnancy or within the early postnatal years. The vast majority of these (approximately 70%) will downplay or attempt to hide their symptoms. Suicide is the leading cause of direct maternal death within the first year postnatally. Therefore, having supportive organisational systems in place will be immensely helpful to ensure this transition is as stress-free as possible for you, and that your employer can continue to get the best from you.
Returning to work after having a baby, can feel like a big step for many. Your journey to conceive, give birth and shift into becoming a mum can be fraught with an array of emotions. While it can be largely positive, your journey to motherhood can be paved by symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress, and trauma. This can be the case for some mums who have been able to take their baby home. Others who have experienced multiples pregnancy losses or stillbirth will also be navigating the world of grief and adjustment. They, too, are mum’s returning to work.
There are many ways you can support your mental health at work. Below are some suggestions.
- Identifying your needs: depending on your fertility journey, pregnancy, and birth, you might be feeling a range of different emotions. Work might be something you welcome or not. You might not necessarily know how your employer can be helpful but have insight into what might be less useful, like working from home or full-time hours, if you can reach out to your employer or HR department.
- Parent’s group: widening your network can help you feel that you’re not on your own. Many employees in organisations create support groups. For example, they might arrange to meet once each month (away from work) and discuss an aspect of parenting, like mental health, birth trauma, or managing sleep. You could enquire whether you have one at your place of work or with other colleagues begin your own.
- Ditch the guilt: feeling like you’re not a good parent because you’re going to work can layer on feelings of guilt. There is immense pressure on women to be the perfect mum and employee- ditch this mindset. Being good enough should be the goal to aim for, and this will look different for every family.
- Being assertive: it’s okay to say ‘no’ to requests to work extra hours and take on more responsibilities and workload. However, this is a skill and requires practice. If you don’t feel able to say ‘no’ outright, perhaps say, “leave it with me to think about” or “I’m not able to commit to that right now.”
Being a mum can feel like the most rewarding and consuming role for many. Juggling motherhood, home life, and work can take a toll on your mental health. It can be beneficial to know the signs of when your usual feelings of stress tips over into something that renders you emotionally or psychologically unwell. This can support you in implementing ways to optimise your mental health. Workplaces can be places you thrive in your career, mental health, and wellbeing.
Review the ‘Tools’ section on ways to support you.