NEW mothers struggling with their mental health have faced added pressures and difficulties through lockdown.

Sarah Penn, of The Happy Mums Foundation, said the cancellation of baby groups, lack of childcare, uncertainty over jobs and fragile financial situations are all factors that have had an impact.

And for someone already finding it hard, she says lockdown will have “exacerbated” their situation.

“We are not meant to be doing this on our own. We evolved to be doing it with other people.

“It has been exacerbated by lockdown. Couples, and often just women because men are having to go off to work very quickly, are attempting to do this on their own with no sleep and I think that is a recipe for disaster,” said Sarah.

“It has been a really difficult time for a lot of different mums and for everybody.

“But when you are struggling with mental health problems and the responsibility of childcare in the majority of cases falls on women, even if they are trying to work from home and they are still trying to do everything, something at some point has to give.

“Everybody is aware of how fragile their financial situation is and there is the uncertainty as well.

“Not knowing what the world is going to look like in a week or a month is incredibly destabilising.”

Suicide is the leading cause of death among mothers in the first year of their child’s life and one in five women develop mental health problems during pregnancy or in the first year, with half of those untreated or undetected.

The Happy Mums Foundation launched a new initiative this month and is encouraging anyone who needs support to get in touch.

#HappyMumbria was due to start in April, as a way of taking the Happy Mums support into the community, but the project has initially started online in the form of two weekly Zoom sessions.

The first took place on September 9 and so far 10 women have accessed support.

Sarah turned to Happy Mums after having her daughter Adelina Penn-Phillips, who turns two this month. She said that making the first step to reach out for support can be the most difficult part of the process.

“It is hard and it is hard in different ways for different people.

“I had had quite a long history of mental health problems so for me in some ways it wasn’t that hard for me to admit I was having a mental health problem.

“For a lot of mums after they have had their children, it is the first time they have had any experience of mental health problems and there is that extra barrier for those people in terms of thinking of themselves as someone with a mental health problem.

“That’s even more challenging because of the pressure that’s on mums to feel a certain way and to be happy and overjoyed,” said Sarah.

She continued: “There is a physical and emotional process happening that makes mums more likely to be depressed or have mental health problems than at other times in their lives - lack of sleep, hormones and isolation.

“Running parallel to that is the guilt and shame that they’ve got those problems and that makes it doubly hard to get help.”

Happy Mums has supported more than 200 women in small peer-support groups since it started in 2017 and has become a lifeline for countless mums and families.

It supports pregnant women and mothers of newborns and children up to the age of two, though Sarah says they are reluctant to turn anyone away who needs support.

Anyone wanting to join #HappyMumbriacan email