If you have had a new baby this year, Counsellor Sarah Barr's column will reassure you that it's okay not to be okay.

Having a new baby during Covid-19 is not an ideal situation for any mother. Feelings of loneliness and isolation that some mums feel as they transition into the role of motherhood is only being increased by the pandemic and lockdown.

If you have had a new baby and just not feeling yourself please reach out. There is so much support available for you, you will not be judged. You will be listened to and supported, you will not be viewed as a bad mum or a failure.

You do not have to feel this way.

I have seen an increase in maternal mental health problems over the past 6 months and now is the time that we need to support mums more than ever.

I have included a little information about maternal mental health below.

Perinatal mental health focuses on a woman’s mental health from the point of conception, throughout the pregnancy and until their baby is one year of age.

Approximately one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth.

This can be a new mental health condition or the reoccurrence of one that they have already experienced.

If you are pregnant, remember that it’s completely normal to be concerned about your unborn baby and experiencing a heightened state of worry is also to be expected given the pandemic.

It is really important to talk, it’s ok not to be ok.

Sometimes, people believe that they should be happy, excited and on top of everything, when actually they feel something different. A lot of new parents have this experience and it’s really important to share these feelings with a trusted person and ask for extra support from professionals.

Please share any worries you have with your family, your partner, your friends or your doctor/nurse. Or send me a message (@NewBeginningsCounsellingService) and I will share a list of local and national services and counsellors that can help you.

If you have given birth this year please remember there is no right way for a person to feel after having a baby. Give yourself the time to adjust and be self-compassionate. Having a baby is a life-changing event and it’s likely to be even more challenging during Covid-19.

Common signs and symptoms of prenatal or postnatal depression/anxiety to look out for:

• Sad and tearful for no obvious reason.
• A sense of hopelessness or worthlessness.
• Extreme tiredness.
• Expressing being unable to cope.
• Extreme guilt.
• Feeling irritable or angry.
• Feeling indifferent towards your baby.
• Losing concentration.
• Little or no appetite.
• Less interest in sexual relations.
• Thoughts about death or wanting to harm themselves.

A things to remember:
• Remember it’s ok not to be ok.
• Be kind to yourself.
• Talk and ask one another regularly: “How are you? Are you really ok?”
• Focus on the positives; recognise, value, and celebrate what you can do at a time of lockdown.
• Stay connected with your family, friends and doctor/nurse.
• Restrict the amount of time that you go online to check the news or scroll through social media.
• If you have a partner, allow one another to have some ‘me time’ when you have a new baby.
• If you are on your own, try and get some ‘me time’ if you can.
• Make loose plans, as things are likely to change. Babies don’t follow our timetables so we can more prepared and in control if we are flexible with our own expectations.
• If you haven’t already, try to link with online support networks. There are a number of reputable online groups for mothers.

Please take care of yourself and your needs, Sarah.