Maternal Mental Health & PND: An Interview with Clinical Psychologist Laura Forlani | Part 1

Maternal Mental Health & PND: An Interview with Clinical Psychologist Laura Forlani | Part 1


Hi, I’m Nicky from Little Ones. And today, I’m gonna be
talking to Laura Forlani, who is a Clinical
Psychologist from Melbourne. And she is the Director of Your Mind Matters Psychology Services. She has a passion for working with clients who are struggling with starting a family, and also helping parents adjust to life once they have a baby. I will link her website
and Facebook group below, and also a couple of
Facebook support groups that she runs in case you’re interested. Today, we’re gonna be talking about maternal and paternal mental health, about postnatal depression and anxiety, and most importantly how sleep and sleep deprivation
affects our mental and physical health as parents. Welcome Laura, it’s really
good to have you with us. Laura: Thank you so much for
having me, it’s a pleasure. Nicky: So let’s just kick this
off with a really easy one, can you just tell me about your
own journey into motherhood, what did you find easy, what was challenging becoming a mother? Laura: So, I became a
mother about 11 months ago, and I can’t believe I’m already
planning his first birthday. It took us a bit over a
year to get through the first trimester and to
have a healthy pregnancy so we were just over the
moon and we spent so long just focusing on pregnancy that when bub actually came along, it was
a bit of a reality shock. I knew it was gonna be
difficult, and I knew that there will be sleep deprivation involved. I didn’t really get the full gamuts of the first month, how difficult it can be. What was easy though,
is how much I loved him. I work with a lot of women suffering from postnatal depression
and I know it can hit anyone. and so, I did have in the back
of my mind that, you know, I may have trouble bonding
with him, I’m not immune, I may not instantly fall
in love with him like everyone tells you that you do. That’s actually not the
case, a lot of women don’t. So I was really grateful
when he came along, and all those emotions just
came, and I loved him. And so in the middle of the night, when he’s crying again, for the
5th time cause he wants milk you kind of go, Uh, really? And then you just look at
this tiny little perfect human and it’s just all worth it. So, the sleep deprivation was
really really heard initially but loving him was really
easy and kind of compensated for that. But also juggling a business so, that was kind of tricky as well. Nicky: I reckon, so how did
that, let’s just talk about the initial tricky period at the start and the sleep deprivation ’cause
that’s obviously something that every new parent goes through, like nobody is immune to that either, there’s just no way around it, you know. It’s foggy and messy and
devastating and you just have to, it’s like a right of passage. How did that affect your
experience of motherhood? Like your initial leap into motherhood. Laura: It was really full on,
I felt really overwhelmed. There is so much to learn
when you have a baby and then when you, you know,
he kind of needed to feed every two to three hours. So
let’s say every three hours, it’ll take about 45 minutes,
and then by the time I fell asleep, it was an hour. So you’re sleeping in
these small chunks of time and you wake up the next morning
and you don’t feel rested and everything is just harder. It’s harder to do the dishes.
It’s harder to do the washing. It’s harder to cook and feed yourself, everything is just
harder and more stressful and there’s also so much to learn and your baby is doing all these things, and you’re wondering is this normal? Is this not normal? So there’s
was a lot of self doubt. There was a lot of guilt if I felt that I wasn’t doing something that
I “should” have been doing. So, it was a big big adjustment. Even though, I work with a lot of parents and I did a lot of research. It was still all new to
me, what you expect and the actuality of it is so different. And at the start, you do lose
literally hours per night because bub needs you. Nicky: Yeah, so you obviously
work in mental health, so, and do a lot of work
with mothers as well. Do you see a strong link between
continued sleep deprivation and a decline in mental
health and function and relationships and things like that with ongoing sleep deprivation? Laura: Absolutely, there is
a plethora of research about sleep deprivation and depression
in particular, but also some anxiety. So we know that, If you are chronically sleep deprived, which they consider to be
less than seven hours a night, and that goes on for a while, which is pretty normal for mothers And fathers. Cause I’m sure anyone in
the house kind of hears it. There’s a tenfold risk of
developing symptoms of depression and we also know that people
who do suffer from depression either report sleep loss or
an excessive need to sleep. So, there’s really really
strong link that’s been really well researched on
depression and sleep deprivation and sometimes they don’t know
which one actually comes first so, that’s why when we see parents who are chronically sleep deprived,
we are really mindful that there’s a huge chance that
there’s a drop in mood, that they’re gonna feel really tired, that they’re going to feel overwhelmed. And it’s completely understandable. If you had a night, where you
had no sleep, baby or no baby the feeling of being tired
is really unpleasant, you can’t think straight, how you process things is a lot slower. We don’t make as many good decisions, our problem solving abilities
goes out the window. And of course we just feel
really heavy and low and unhappy. I don’t know anyone
who is tired and happy. I’ve never had anyone like
“How are you feeling?” “I’m exhausted, but happy!” I’m exhausted, it’s tiring. Everybody can relate to that. Nicky: And so, do you see
in your work specifically, that sleep deprivation on those levels is a contributing factor to
postnatal depression or anxiety and those kind of maternal
mental health issues that we see? Laura: Absolutely, so postnatal
depression is really just depression that is due to having a baby. So it’s not the baby blues
that normally resolves within a couple of days.
Where as postnatal depression it’s about a month after bub is here. It’s lasting for a couple weeks, and we’re also seeing that
chronic sleep deprivation, if it kind of transitions
into postnatal depression which is really common, it’s
about one in seven women who give birth get postnatal depression. They have trouble bonding with their baby. It’s not just “I’m tired”,
it’s “I feel like a bad mother, I’m struggling to bond, I’m feeling angry, I’m feeling overwhelmed”. There’s lots of guilt involved, It’s not just simply, “I’m tired”. And so given the strong
link between depression and anxiety and poor sleep. It’s really not surprising
that when we throw a baby in the mix, and we get a
surge of sleep deprivation, that we also see increases in depression, particularly amongst mothers. And they’re saying, the
research is about one in 10 fathers as well, experience
some low moods once the baby is introduced. So if you’ve got two parents
struggling, of course, that also affects relationships which can exacerbate the difficulty
within the household and the adjustment. And
it is a huge adjustment. Nicky: Are you seeing, that
these statistics are rising? And more and more mothers
experiencing these feelings of depression
and anxiety, do you think? Laura: I don’t know If
the statistics are rising, but I know that women
are coming forward and reporting it a lot more. The maternal health nurses
are doing a fantastic job at detecting when women are struggling. It would be great if they
were also working with the fathers a bit more as well. They’re really good at detecting it and referring them to psychologists early and it’s no longer taboo for
the generation of women who are having babies now,
to see a psychologist. It’s fairly well accepted
and so we are having a lot more women put
their hands up and say, “hey, I’m struggling” but they’re often suffering in silence and it’s only to the maternal health nurse or to their best friend, or
it’s to another mother. So we’re trying to do a lot of awareness around that it is really common and it responds really well to treatment. Postnatal depression is
something that is really well-managed if you have
a GP and a psychologist and you’re willing to do the work. And we are all about working with moms there is no shame in it,
it’s a privilege to support women and fathers on their journey. And it’s becoming more
mainstream to see a psychologist. So, highly treatable, really recommend that
women get some support. Nicky: I do feel, and I’ve
talked to quite a few people, who also feel that these days, we do try and suck it up we have that whole, “I’m a woman, and I should
be able to do this, you know, just, how hard can it be?”
It’s seen as a failure to admit that we are not coping, do you think that then plays
into increased feelings of depression and anxiety. We’re sort of creating this
cycle of putting pressure on ourselves and we don’t
feel that we succeeding and then we feel that’s it’s more
of a failure to ask for help. How is that affecting our mental health? Laura: So there is, obviously,
there is a huge movement now of women becoming the heads of companies, and really educated, and
entering in the workforce and becoming professionals
and it’s really encouraging today’s society to multitask. It’s not just, you know, you
just taking care of the baby and that’s it. Women these days are Mothers or even stay at home dads, they taking care of the
baby but they’re also doing the shopping , the
cleaning, the cooking, they’re checking emails, answering phones. A lot of women are running
their businesses from home, and that’s celebrated to
be doing a million things and to say “how are you
doing it?” And they’re like, “Oh, I just don’t sleep” or they’re multitasking, they’ve got a– I have to admit, I’m
actually guilty of this, because I do run a
business in the early days, I would have my BabyBjorn
on, bub strapped in, I’ve got a stand-up desk, and
I’d be responding to emails while bouncing him like to keep him asleep And making phone calls, and
walking and walking just so I can get my work done, even when I was in the hospital, I was, you know, got a baby two days old. But I run a business and I
have to respond to things so there was a lot of pressure and I absolutely felt like a failure and that I couldn’t do it all and you know what, it was too much, looking back now. And this is the unfortunate thing, we often look back on
what we did, we’re like, “Why did I do that, Why didn’t I delegate, why didn’t I ask for help, why didn’t I put some
boundaries in place?” So, I’m absolutely guilty of it. And I can completely
relate to the pressure to do everything and be
everything and succeed and when you can’t do it all,
and you feel like a failure even though, it’s such an
unrealistic expectation. Nicky: Yeah, and then, I
agree. We see it all the time. Actually, you know, parents who are just “I need to this and this
and this and this and I’m not sleeping”. And I always think, if you are not taking
care of your nutrition, and your sleep, that
underpins everything else. Like, you can’t do all of those things if you’re not taking care
of yourself as well. And I think as mothers, we forget that we are just as important as our child. Laura: We do forget, absolutely. Nicky: It’s one thing to keep them alive, but we also have to keep ourselves alive. And that doesn’t mean like
I’m a physical shell of my former self, it means I’m
healthy mentally and physically Laura: We’re meant to spend 2/3, sorry, a third of life sleeping.
So if we are messing a third of our life, of course
the other 2/3 are gonna be impacted as well, and we find that with chronic sleep deprivation,
not only do we see the concentration
difficulties, and the tiredness and irritability and the mood changes but then it does start to
affect our physical health. Chronic sleep deprivation
is really associated, there’s a strong link between
depression and anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, obesity. So it really does long
term start to affect your physical health as well. And it takes more than one
good night of sleep to fix it, it’s consistently taking care of yourself. Nicky: Is it selfish to
want better sleep yourself when you have a baby? Laura: Uh uh.. no. I can see how mothers think it’s selfish, and again it’s this thing
of the baby comes first, but you can’t pour from an empty cup. So, yes, if you can
survive a few nights with a little bit less sleep to
take care of baby, fine. But then you need to take
care of yourself as well. You need to say to someone, “hey, I need a good night’s sleep.” Just one good night sleep can be a week, can be all you need,
just to feel rejuvinated and like yourself again. And your baby will survive you will thank yourself for it. ’cause you’ll be a new
person the next day. You’ll be more alert, you have more energy you’ll be happier and you’re
baby is gonna love that. So, I would say, I know
it’s gonna feel selfish, because you’re actually
doing something for yourself which your not used to when you’re caring for a newborn But you really need to do it. It’s not self indulgent, it’s self-care. Otherwise, you’re gonna fall to pieces Nicky: And actually, a
biological necessity. Laura: I mean, how long can
you go for without sleeping? You’re not gonna be the
best version of yourself if you’re not sleeping.

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