Each pregnancy is the beginning of a new stage of life, and it starts when you find out you are pregnant. You will probably experience a wide range of emotions regardless of how baby came to be: they may be long expected, or an unwelcome surprise. Many women describe joy and excitement but also worry and fear. Tears aren’t uncommon either. Many things will affect how you feel during pregnancy, from physical symptoms (e.g., morning sickness) and support you have (or don’t have), to events happening in your life.
During the Summer of 2021, we conducted Lola&Lykke’s first mental health survey among our community. The uptake was slow and while we weren't overwhelmed with amount of replies, I'm pleased to report that we received 143 replies to almost all seven questions. 94% of responders were women, and 75% of these women were currently expecting. 25% were new parents, including breastfeeding mamas. Sadly, our results support every survey conducted among expecting women in recent years: Mothers are struggling.
In the last month, how often have you felt nervous and stressed?
SOMETIMES: 55% VERY OFTEN: 33% ALMOST NEVER: 13%
The vast majority of parents have experienced stress and felt nervous during the last month. Overall, 87% or 124 out of 143 people replied to feeling these emotions either sometimes or very often. Less than 1 in 6 replied feeling stressed or nervous rarely, if ever. Stress is a normal reaction to major change, and change doesn’t get much bigger than expecting a small human being to arrive in a few short months’ time.
At this time, our survey did not ask for causes of stress and worry, but further along many gave the impending change as a cause for their concern. Health issues, moving house, previous children, and even Covid were mentioned as reasons why mums, parents in general, worry. And they are valid reasons. According to Motherly’s 2021 State of Motherhood Survey results, children need a village to raise them, and mums don’t have that. Especially the changes implemented on antenatal care, labour, and our social lives, during the pandemic have made things worse for expecting parents all over.
In the last month, how often have you felt you were unable to control the important things in your life?
SOMETIMES: 52% VERY OFTEN: 34% ALMOST NEVER: 14%
Adding to the emotional baggage of stress and nervousness, 66% or mums have felt unable to control important things in their life during this time. That may have to do with staying on top of grocery shopping, caring for family, keeping appointments, tidying up, and so on, it’s indicative of the epidemic plaguing mums everywhere: staying in control when your life seems to spiral out of control due to external reasons, like the pandemic and the restrictions caused by it, and the simultaneous lack and excess of information can make the most balanced person feel unstable.
In the last month, how often have you felt you were on top of things?
SOMETIMES: 57% VERY OFTEN: 24% ALMOST NEVER: 19%
Contrasting the high volume of mums feeling out of control, only 24% have felt they were on top of things very often.
Do you ever worry about how you will cope with all the things you have to do as a new parent?
The final question of our survey was an open-ended question about worry and anxiety regarding the new life situation and tasks being a new parent brings. An overwhelming amount, 75%, answered ‘yes’.
The transition into parenthood, enjoyable and satisfying for some, may feel like you are drowning to others. The first year of life with a new baby is a constant and demanding job that can involve sleepless nights, spells of crying and at times not knowing what to do. Birth and breastfeeding involve many physical changes and recovery can take time. Common challenges after birth include tiredness, loss of libido, loss of couple time, and little time to yourself.
Dealing with changes in your everyday routine, as well as learning to look after baby, requires lots of energy, emotional commitment, and patience. This was heavily reflected in the replies with answers ranging from
"No take each day as they come and be prepared to not follow any plan" to "Constantly, I worry about doing all the usual tasks as well as keeping a baby alive and happy!".
Existing children added the worry women feel, as many answers included a fear of neglecting the siblings since most of the attention will be directed towards newest member of the family.
"Yea I’m worried about becoming a mother of three and letting my other children down."
"I worry about what to do with the twin while the other baby needs attention like when changing nappies."
The fear of disappointing families, spouses, or themselves, also bears mention.
"I worry constantly that I am failing in one area of my life. If I have a good day with the baby, it means I've neglected the housework. If I've spent time doing housework, I worry I've not made the most of my time with my baby. I worry that my partner feels second best to our baby as my focus is on our baby girl rather than him."
"Yes, as I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know how I am going to feel after giving birth and I am worried people might get offended when I will not allow them to come and visit for a first few weeks when baby arrives as I would like a time to get used to everything."
16 answers indicated occasional worry.
Another emerging cause for concern appears to be health. This was one of few reasons people specified in the open-ended replies and ranged from general health issues to allergies, to past miscarriages and the fear caused by experience:
"Yes, first time mum after suffering a second trimester loss. I worry If I will be good enough and worry that it will have another wave of grief after having another baby."
34 of the responders were breastfeeding or were new parents. Most of them reported occasional worry, especially initially:
"Definitely, I found the first few weeks very overwhelming but now it's getting a little bit easier and I'm getting more confident"
Interestingly, only one reply touched on Covid-19.
"Sometimes, more so if I am doing the right thing, with covid he and I have missed out on a lot"
It takes a village…
Looking at these results, I feel even more empowered that we’re doing the right thing. Motherly had over 11,000 mums replying to their study, and we only 140, but these 140 mums count too. Their experience is valid – and validified by all those big studies showing that mums struggle. Even those of us who’ve had something akin to a village have had to isolate from a lot during the past 18 Covid-filled months.
But I have hope. With so many platforms where mums can share their stories, organisations amplifying their voices, and increasing amount of women in leadership positions, I’m certain that change is coming.
If you don’t have your own village, join ours – mums in the Lola&Lykke community are special to us and we want to amplify your voice.
I’m hopeful this mental health survey will become a yearly tradition, grow, and that I can one day share with you good news, the best of news, regarding the mental state of our mums. For now, please have a look at our Mental Wellness Guide and get in touch with our Experts if you feel like there’s any questions, thoughts or feelings we may be able to help you with!