Struggling new parents reluctant to ask for help, study finds

While many report that they struggle to cope with new parenthood, the majority are reluctant to ask for help during the first weeks with a newborn

The first weeks of parenthood are undeniably challenging, as parents adjust to an upheaval to their lives, all while facing the physical, mental, and emotional challenges that come with it.

In a survey of 2,000 parents, conducted by children’s brand Stokke, 84% of parents said that they felt shocked at how their life changed, with 22% struggling with a lack of confidence in their abilities as a new parent.

Additionally, according to the NHS, one in 10 women will experience postpartum depression in the year following the birth of their baby. And postpartum depression can also affect men, with 24% to 50% of fathers whose partners have depression, experiencing it themselves.

And yet, despite the commonality of challenges across a spectrum of mental health experiences, the research from Stokke saw 71% of new parents admitting that they were reluctant to ask for help during the first weeks. Delving into why, 23% shared that they were worried about being labelled a bad parent, and 40% did not want others to think that they couldn’t cope.

When it came to feelings of shame and guilt, the survey found that this was more prevalent amongst mothers, with 71% of mothers feeling guilty for not being able to do something advised by parenting experts, compared to 57% of fathers. 81% of mothers also shared that they felt guilt about, or were self-critical, of their parenting style and choices, with 66% of fathers feeling the same way.

Top 10 frustrations for new parents

According to the survey, the top 10 frustrations that new parents face were:

Sleepless nights
Trying to soothe a crying baby
Never getting anything done
Endless washing
Unsolicited parenting advice
Looking terrible
Not being able to eat or drink when you want
Not being able to go to the toilet when you need to
Being trapped by a sleeping newborn
Not getting to shower

“Becoming a parent for the first time is not only wonderful, but it can be incredibly overwhelming,” says Dr Zoe Williams, an NHS GP and recent new parent. “It’s not surprising that many parents lack confidence or feel guilty for not doing something advised by the experts. It’s important that parents remember to trust their instincts when it comes to the baby. Unless you have any medical concerns, your baby just needs you.”

New parent groups can be a great place to start, and a way to connect with others that are going through the same things are you. You can often find them taking place within your community, but there are huge networks of people online, too.

Enjoy getting to know the newest member of your family,” says Dr Williams. “And remember to be kind to yourself and ask for help if you need it.”

If you need support from a counsellor, connect with a professional using counselling-directory.org.uk

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