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How loneliness can affect expecting mothers

A new study conducted by UCL experts claims that loneliness frequently causes depression in expecting and new moms,

Pregnancy is often an emotional roller-coaster
Pregnancy is often an emotional roller-coaster (Unsplash)

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Pregnancy, as we all know, is usually an emotional roller-coaster as women mentally prepare themselves for all the changes a new baby will bring to their lives. And it appears to be even harder if you start believing that you are doing this alone. According to a new study conducted by UCL experts, loneliness frequently causes depression in expecting and new moms.

Also read: How to exercise safely when you are pregnant

This is especially important for those who interact with expectant mothers, such as in antenatal classes or consultations. ANI pointed out that, according to researchers, these people should be aware of the significance of loneliness and the need of promoting new moms' creation and maintenance of healthy social relationships. “According to the research, more family and medical support may be beneficial in easing the negative effects of loneliness on mental health,” said the wire service.

The study, which was published in BMC Psychiatry, used a systematic method of qualitative research that pulled together accounts of 537 women, from 27 research papers on four continents, to come to this consensus. Lead author Dr Katherine Adlington (UCL Psychiatry and East London NHS Foundation Trust) said to ANI. "We found that loneliness was central to the experiences of expectant and new mothers with depression. We know that depression and loneliness are often interconnected - each one can lead to the other - and this may be particularly true for perinatal depression."Having a baby is a period of huge transition and upheaval, that can involve losing touch with people and existing networks, such as work colleagues. This research suggests that loneliness is a major risk for mental health problems during pregnancy and new mothers," she said.

ANI pointed out that depression is common during the perinatal period: one in six pregnant women and one in five women during the first three months after birth can suffer from it. This can significantly affect new parents' quality of life and can have long-term adverse impacts on their child's cognitive and emotional development, reported the wire service, adding that loneliness came through prominently across the studies as a key contributing factor in perinatal depression.

So what causes loneliness? Stigma, self-isolation, emotional disconnection and not receiving enough support, pointed out ANI. “Many women reported a fear of judgement as a 'bad mother', and both perceived and experienced mental health stigma, which contributed to them hiding symptoms of mental ill-health and often led to self-isolation and withdrawal." Additionally, many women also reported a sudden sense of emotional disconnection after birth, from their previous lives before getting pregnant, from other mothers, and from the baby, added the wire service. “Others also reported a mismatch between expected and actual support provided by their partner, their family, and their community more broadly. The researchers also identified a double burden faced by mothers from disadvantaged communities, due to increased stigma and decreased social support, highlighting the need for more targeted support that is culturally appropriate and without language barriers.”

Also read: Want to exercise while pregnant? Let’s bust the myths

ANI also stated that the review also shed light on potential solutions. “Many women reported that validation and understanding from healthcare professionals were helpful and may alleviate their loneliness, suggesting that clinical staff may have a greater than expected impact on reducing loneliness,” it stated, adding that peer support from other mothers with experience of perinatal depression was also helpful. “But only if those mothers had similar stories to share, as speaking to mothers who appeared to be doing well could in fact make loneliness worse,” added ANI. 


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