Everybody talks about the joys of motherhood, but for a long time, nobody talked about the tears, the sadness, stress and anxiety. Luckily, that’s changing because new numbers reveal mental health issues are a very common part of parenthood.

According to a new survey by the BBC, more than a third of mothers experience mental health issues. The results come from an online survey of British parents, but the topic is something that definitely impacts moms all over the world.

A 2014 survey of Australian moms came up with the same figure, noting that one in three first time mothers is in poor mental health, and a survey done stateside in 2013 found about 22% of new moms were depressed.


The BBC survey may show higher numbers because it looked at mental health issues in general, not specifically postpartum depression (which is just one way a mom’s mental health can be impacted), or it could signal that mothers have become more willing to discuss all kinds of mental health issues in recent years. Thanks to public health campaigns and celebrities like Hayden Panettiere and Alanis Morrisette sharing their stories publicly, the stigma is being removed.

There is still some work to do, though.

The BBC survey found that a lot of parenting stress stems from the fact that moms are being criticized by a lot of people. That can hurt, especially when you’re still getting the hang of parenting and not feeling super secure to begin with.

The BBC reports 26% of mother say their own parents are the most critical of their parenting, and 24% feel their partner is.

When it comes to public parenting shaming, moms get it worse than fathers. While just 5% of dads reported being criticized by strangers in public, 14% of mothers have been mom shamed by random people (raises hand, shout out to the cashier who refused to check my grocery order because my crying baby was “too distracting”).

Work issues are also a factor when it comes to stress and anxiety linked to parenthood. Thirty percent of moms surveyed by the BBC felt they’d been discriminated against at work since becoming a mom, and less than half as many fathers said the same.

While dads do have it easier at work (and when out in public), they’re certainly not immune to mental health issues associated with parenthood. Seventeen percent of dads surveyed reported experiencing mental health problems, and we certainly know that new fathers can experience parental depression, too.

The conversation around parental mental health issues is an important one because, according to the BBC, about two-thirds of the moms suffering aren’t asking for help, and the numbers for dads are even lower.

A recent study of depressed fathers found that about 83% of those who would be classified as moderately to severely depressed hadn’t actually told anyone, and researchers estimated the corresponding figure for new moms is anywhere between 20 and 50%.

According to the BBC, 60% of moms report turning to their friends for support, 56% turn to their partner and 18% say they go online.

If you’re feeling down, speak up.

The bottom line is that parenthood—while wonderful and full of cuddles—can also be a strain to our mental health. These stats show mental health issues among moms and dads are super common, so don’t feel alone.

There’s no shame in asking for help, but it is a shame when moms suffer in silence.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."


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