Looking after yourself: The importance of ‘Self-care’ in pregnancy and beyond

One of our Daisy teachers Ceri has written this thought provoking blog to emphasise the importance of self-care during pregnancy and throughout motherhood, as we mark the end of Maternal Mental Health Awareness week

It’s time to talk about you.  How are you feeling?  Whilst you are looking after your growing bump (and possibly your other kids too), as well as taking care of things at home and at work, is anyone looking after you?  Are you looking after you?

We all need to take time out for ourselves, especially with our increasingly busy lives.  We are so used to juggling everything and coping by ourselves, but don’t forget that you need to take care of yourself to be able to take care of everything else.  Taking on too much and not giving yourself ‘self-care’, can lead to ill health, anxiety and depression.

You can’t pour from an empty cup.  It’s that simple.  And a happy mum really does make a happy baby.  They may sound like catchy phrases and slogans, but they are spot on.

You need play time/me time/rest, whatever you want to call it, just as much as the rest of your family (possibly even more!).  You deserve, and need a break – for your own sanity, your own health and most importantly, your own wellbeing. 

Leave the laundry for a bit.  Get your partner or parents to take the kids out for the afternoon.  The to-do list can wait.

Get out for a long walk.  Visit a friend for lunch.  Enjoy a hot bath and a magazine.  Go for a relaxing swim.  Take the time to sit down and have a hot drink and just watch the world go by.  Take up a new pregnancy class (like Daisy Birthing!), practice some yoga at home or find a quiet space and just focus on your breathing for a while.  Indulge in your favourite hobbies, whether its painting, gardening, watching a movie or whatever floats your boat!  Take an afternoon nap.  Treat yourself to a piece of cake or buy a little something that makes you smile.

Do something just for you, that makes you happy and gives you time off from being a mum, a wife, a colleague etc… for at least one hour.  Yes, that’s right, you need quality time not to be rushed, that is dedicated just to you.  And it isn’t being selfish to take this time for yourself, it’s being clever and being responsive to your own needs. You will be a better version of your already incredible self afterwards.

You may feel guilty even just thinking about doing something just for you.  That’s mum guilt talking and we all have it.  Ignore it (or kick it to the curb and lock it in a box!), it will go away and you have better things to think about right now, like your self.  You shouldn’t feel guilty for looking after yourself, you should feel good about it, and it should be much higher up on your list.

Self-care is so important, and it starts and ends with you. You have to give yourself permission to put yourself first, and this will benefit you immensely, but also your baby, family, work and other areas of your life.  A happy, balanced mum is a confident and able mum.

Self-care covers everything from making sure you get some decent rest and sleep (easier said than done with a bump/baby/kids but it is possible if you ask for help!); to eating well (lots of fruit and veg, high protein foods and carbs are necessary for keeping up your energy levels) and drinking plenty of water; to getting some gentle exercise to boost your feel-good endorphins and get the blood and oxygen pumping around your body (and as a handy by-product, also to your baby!).  

It also includes ensuring you have time to take a proper shower and make your doctors or dentists appointments in plenty of time i.e looking after yourself properly.  It also includes taking time out to have fun and have a break to look after your mental health and your physical health.  This in turns enables you to be a confident, happy and balanced mum, which will positively impact on your baby and your life.   

Research has suggested that your emotions can pass on to your growing baby in the womb via chemical signals.  The bond between a mother and baby begins in the womb with natural rhythms, responses and an instinctive communication system developing continuously, and this advances after birth as your baby naturally responds to your voice, touch, body and smell.  Pregnancy can be a stressful time as your body, your emotions, and indeed your life, all make a huge transition, so taking a little time out to look after yourself is one of the most important things you can do for your own health and the health of your baby.

A newborn will study your face to help them to understand the world.  Your facial expressions, tone of voice and body language will help them to feel secure and comfortable.  So if you are feeling stressed out, sleep deprived or angry (and we all do at some point, we are only human!), take a few moments to practice your centred breathing and help yourself to relax and let go of those negative emotions, before tending to your baby.  It will help you to feel calmer and more relaxed and your baby will respond to this by relaxing their body with yours.

If you ever feel that you just can’t cope or are struggling with your emotions in any way, even if you think it’s silly or probably nothing to worry about, please always tell someone.  Whether it’s your partner, your mum, or a friend; it really helps to talk and get advice from people who love you and know you well.  It’s also important to know where else to go for help and support, so do speak to your midwife or doctor, or know that there are other helplines and local support groups that you can reach out to such as http://www.pandasfoundation.org.uk/support-groups-local/

 So, how are you going to look after yourself today?  Do a little something just for you each day and remember that a happy mum makes a happy baby.

Love Daisy x