GP Newsletter Issue #5 – November 2016

Welcome to our November 2016 Newsletter
Our newsletter aims to bring you up to date with the services we offer to GPs and their patients throughout Worcestershire, Warwickshire and Birmingham.

pndEarlier this year I published my latest piece of research on Postnatal Depression (PND) in older mothers in the British Journal of Midwifery.

PND is the most common complication of childbearing in the UK, affecting between 10-15% of new mothers and the birth rate for women aged 30+ is growing faster than for any other age group in the UK.

We see a number of new mums at Morency suffering with PND and these clients inspired my research as similarities began to emerge from my work with this client group. I hope my research will further understanding of the experience of PND for mothers in this age group and guide interventions and support.

The ideology surrounding motherhood as a happy and fulfilling experience continues to permeate contemporary society setting women up to develop a sense of failure when reality does not match expectations. The image projected is of women feeling fulfilled in their new role as mother, happily attending to the needs of their child and adapting seamlessly to the tasks of motherhood – which often is not the case!

The main difficulties faced by the mothers in my research:
‘I thought I’ve wanted this (baby) for so long. I’ve been given this chance it must be perfect, it must be amazing’

Striving to be a perfect mother. Being the ‘perfect’ mother meant either giving the baby the ‘perfect’ start or enjoying motherhood in an effortless way, projecting a perfect mother image to others, or having a baby that was soothed quickly. The expectations women put on themselves to be a perfect ‘natural’ mother contrasted drastically with their lived experience leading to feelings of disillusionment, feeling perplexed and despondency.

Feeling a failure. Failing to live up to their own expectations of being the perfect mother was a scary ‘new’ experience for the mothers. In reality their babies were thriving and reaching developmental milestones. Their punishment for failing was never directed towards the baby but was internalised, with one mother self-harming to cope with the feelings she was experiencing due to her perceived inadequacies.

Shame of the other’s gaze. Mothers were ashamed at being seen as deficient by others and aware of the stigma attached to PND. Feeling unable to ask for help they withdrew from family, friends and health professionals.

‘I thought she would just write a prescription and send me away…that wasn’t what I wanted’

Feeling stuck and overwhelmed. Older mothers felt they ‘should’ be able to sort out things for themselves and so they decided to try harder and ‘push on’ with their efforts while ‘pushing down’ their sense that all was not well. The cycle was one of hopelessness and entrapment. Trying desperately to understand what was going on and knowing something big and important was happening, the mothers did not see medication alone as offering that explanation.

‘It was just nice to open up and just tell somebody all the panics I had got into’

Being lost and then found. Having lost their ‘old’ professional self, participants experienced themselves differently and this triggered identity issues. The process of being ‘found’ was aided by counselling. The mothers found that counselling gave them the opportunity to speak to an independent person who wouldn’t be burdened by their worries. It provided a safe place where they wouldn’t feel judged and removed the threat of someone stepping in and taking the child away by its promise of emotional support, help and understanding.

Conclusions:  It seems motherhood can be a difficult adjustment for older women and can stir up feelings of shame, failure, loss of identity/self which can lead to excessive self-criticism. Mothers are reluctant to rely solely on medication as a means of overcoming their PND. This study has highlighted how new mothers want to understand the difficulties they are experiencing and the value they placed on undergoing counselling with an ‘independent’ person within a safe, non-judgemental space. At Morency we are passionate about providing this environment for mums with PND.

Dr Julie Hannan
Dr Julie Hannan

Thank you for considering Morency Therapy as the best team to support the mental health of your patients. It continues to be our privilege to provide psychological support to local people.

Dr Julie Hannan
Clinical Director & Chartered Counselling Psychologist



Morency Therapy, The Mill, Radford Road, Alvechurch, Birmingham B48 7LD

Opening Hours

Monday-Friday: 08:30am-8:00pm
Saturday& Sunday: Closed

Tel: 07530 854530            [email protected]/morency-rooms