Juno https://juno-health.com Mental health during & after pregnancy Wed, 09 Oct 2019 15:25:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Let’s Talk About Mental Health https://juno-health.com/lets-talk-about-mental-health/ https://juno-health.com/lets-talk-about-mental-health/#respond Wed, 09 Oct 2019 11:26:11 +0000 https://juno-health.com/?p=8235 Tomorrow is World Suicide Prevention Day – so we’ve written a blog that you might find helpful, but we know that for some people the world can feel like a pretty dark place & reading a blog or speaking to a therapist couldn’t be further from your mind.

If you are in crisis or require urgent support, please dial 999 or go to your nearest A&E.
Or, you can speak to The Samaritans, for free, in confidence – 24 hours a day, 365 days a year – call them on 116 123!

We spoke to somebody last week who gave us permission to share their brief story – anonymously.
So here it is…

In 2015, I was going through a tough time – it felt very much like I was in a fight with life ..
I came out fighting for each round, and it felt at times as though I landed a few blows – but ultimately, life was winning – the world was beating me down.

I was getting weaker, more tired and eventually, felt that I was fighting a losing battle.

So, in May of that year, after life hit me with what felt like a wrecking ball to the chest, I decided I couldn’t keep fighting. Although I didn’t specifically plan anything, I think I just felt beaten… exhausted.

One evening I was in my car on the motorway, it was around 9:45pm, it was dark and raining and the motorway was surprisingly quiet – or so it felt.
I’m not sure where my mind had wandered to but I remember tears rolling down my face – I think I was just overwhelmed – exhausted of living in my own mind. And in that moment, on that motorway, I closed my eyes.

Everything seemed to go quiet, eerily quiet, for what felt like a lifetime. Then my car went into a spin. Suddenly, I heard the sound of another vehicle’s horn – I opened my eyes – lights flashing at me. My instincts to stop the spin were strangely overwhelming but grabbing the steering wheel and hitting the brake pedal only seemed to make things worse.

Eventually I stopped. A few other cars and lorries passed me as I manoeuvred nervously to the hard shoulder. I turned off my engine. My mind was racing and my heart beating out of my chest.  I sat there and tried to comprehend what just happened.

I don’t remember feeling suicidal. But I do remember feeling exhausted with life. I felt sad and alone – even though I had the support of family & friends.
I don’t know what it was that compelled me to what I did, but I remember a feeling of relief very soon afterwards.

I don’t think I wanted to die – I think I was just so tired of feeling lost and alone. Feeling despair.
I know I’m not the only one who has felt that way – which is why I wanted to share this… because my life is very different now.

I still live with anxiety and I still have bad days – ‘dark days’ as I call them – and coping with them is a learning curve, but I don’t feel like I’m losing anymore. I feel a sense of hope – after spending so long feeling hopeless, that’s a powerful emotion. Life is getting better.

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t suggest how to manage your feelings – I just know that with time, patience and support, there is hope – eventually. Be patient, ask for help and be gentle with yourself.

We hope this story is helpful – and helps you to realise that although it may not feel like it, you’re not alone, there is hope, and things can get better.

Here’s some helpful info we wanted to share with you:
When something sad or stressful happens, or we’re in a particularly low mood, it’s not uncommon to feel like we’d be better off if we just didn’t wake up one morning.

Thoughts like these can be disturbing and worrying – but there’s a big difference between thinking about dying or killing yourself, and actually being suicidal. This is called suicidal ideation.

Suicidal ideation is a typical feature of many mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, and it can happen to anybody at any time.

It might be triggered by the ending of a relationship or a bereavement, causing you to feel that you don’t really want to go on without the person you’ve lost.

Destabilising life events such as redundancy or a diagnosis of illness might also leave you feeling desperately unhappy. For example a cancer diagnosis or an infertility diagnosis.
The thoughts associated with suicidal ideation can come in various different forms and often thoughts like these are fleeting, but for some people they’re a constant buzz in the background as they go about their everyday lives.

These thoughts can be scary & overwhelming. The important thing to remember is that thinking about dying or taking your own life doesn’t mean you’re at risk of harming yourself. And it is not anything to be ashamed of.
Passive suicidal ideation is actually a normal part of the process of coming to terms with something sad, unsettling or difficult.

The bottom line is, we don’t like feeling unpleasant emotions such as fear, loss, loneliness or anxiety, and our natural response to these feelings is to avoid them. Our brains look for ways to stop these dreadful feelings – and not being alive any more is one way of escaping them.

Whilst it’s certainly an unhelpful thought to have in our head, it is perfectly natural.  These thoughts tend to go away on their own – although they can sometimes persist, and this can be distressing and exhausting.

However, talking about them with someone can often help – these feelings become less frightening when they’re brought to the surface and discussed.

Talking therapy is a very effective way of learning to manage thoughts like these, particularly if you have anxiety or depression. Speaking to a therapist can be transformational, but it might seem daunting too – which is why we’ve tried to make it as easy as possible to speak to a therapist, on your smartphone or tablet – from the comfort, safety & convenience of your own home. The support you need, when you need it – at your fingertips.

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Every 40 seconds, someone loses their life to suicide. https://juno-health.com/every-40-seconds-someone-loses-their-life-to-suicide/ https://juno-health.com/every-40-seconds-someone-loses-their-life-to-suicide/#respond Wed, 09 Oct 2019 11:02:30 +0000 https://juno-health.com/?p=8231 October 10th is World Mental Health Day, an opportunity for people around the globe to raise awareness of the importance of mental health and the associated challenges.

Each year, the World Federation For Mental Health (WFMH) selects a theme that facilitates discussion around a growing mental health epidemic or challenge. This year, the theme is suicide prevention.

Close to 800,000 people die by suicide every year, and for each suicide there are more than 20 suicide attempts. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families & communities and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. But suicides are preventable. 

In 2017, there were 5,821 suicides in the UK. In England, this was a person dying by suicide every 107 minutes. Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people aged 20-34 years in the UK and it is considerably higher in men, with around three times as many men dying as a result of suicide compared to women.

Juno is a female focused behavioural health start-up and we know that women are up to 40% more likely to experience a mental health problem – largely because we face particularly unique challenges at the intersection of our mental health and reproductive health.

However, it is extremely important to acknowledge that, sadly, suicide is the leading cause of death for men under 50 in the UK and that one reason men are more likely to die by suicide may be because they are less likely than women to ask for help or talk about depressive or suicidal feelings. So, on World Mental Health Day this year, make sure you speak to the men in your life: your brother, father, son, uncle, nephew, cousin – friends, neighbours and colleagues – ask how they are, ask again, and really listen.

One of the key issues around mental health and suicide is stigma; the perception that a certain attribute makes a person unacceptably different from others. But the truth is, whilst we are all different in some way, each of us is fighting an emotional battle of some sort – yet we still don’t talk about our mental health. Perhaps we don’t want to burden family members or friends or be the subject of ‘office gossip’. But if we talked about it more, we would realise that we are not alone.  

Not talking about our mental health can lead to feelings of isolation, despair and loneliness. Which is why a simple action we can all take is to be observant to those around us, listen and ask twice – the average person in the UK will say they are fine 14 times a day and a person who is seeking to hide how they truly feel is likely to do the same. By asking twice we can demonstrate that we are genuinely interested in their response and concerned about how they’re doing. We are also reinforcing that we are prepared to invest the time in listening to their answer – not just asking out of politeness.  We don’t need to be experts in mental health to listen. We don’t need to worry about not having all the answers – we simply need to be compassionate and demonstrate a willingness to listen.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is the language we use when talking about mental health, and suicide in particular, which can, unintentionally, be stigmatising and upsetting to people who have attempted to take their own life or have been bereaved by suicide.

Although suicide does disproportionately affect men, as women there are a number of factors that affect our mental health, and which can make us extremely emotionally vulnerable.

Depression is a major risk factor for suicide attempts and other suicidal behaviours and depression disproportionately affects women[i] – who are two times more likely to suffer from depression – it is not insignificant that 70% of antidepressant prescriptions are given to women (USA).

Issues such as domestic abuse, menopause, eating disorders, and pregnancy also disproportionately affect women’s mental & emotional health. For example, we know that pregnancy isn’t always a happy time and suicide is a leading cause of death among pregnant women and new mothers, according to the latest MBRRACE-UK report.

During and after pregnancy, women can be vulnerable to mental illness due to shifts in hormone levels, but also because they must contend with the unrealistic expectation that pregnancy should be a happy time, which puts pregnant women and new mothers under immense and seemingly inescapable pressure – especially in the age of social media.

Then there’s menopause – although a perfectly natural occurrence for almost all women, it can have a debilitating impact on their lives, which is why women going through menopause are at a higher risk of depression. Menopausal hormone fluctuations can cause disruptions to your everyday life and have significant impact on your mental & emotional health – in fact, going through the menopausal transition significantly increases the risk of depressive symptoms and depression diagnosis in women without any history of depression[ii].

I remember clearly my mother’s experience of menopause – for years she felt tortured by her own body. My sister experienced the onset of menopause at a very young age as a result of cancer treatment – a treatment which also resulted in her being unable to have children of her own, which has been incredibly distressing for her. This is understandable – infertility is one of the most painful experiences for anyone who expected to plan a family.

Although not an issue reserved for women, we know that the impact of infertility affects the mental & emotional health of women differently to men. For example, one study found that over half of the women stated infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. Another study concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer or recovering from a heart attack.

We are all human, and we all struggle.  Whatever challenges you might be facing, it is important to remember that you are not alone. Given the prevalence of mental & emotional health problems and the serious impact these can have on people’s lives, our mission is imperative – what could be more important than improving quality of life!

For us at Juno, every day is World Mental Health Day. But whilst we’re working hard to break down stigma around mental health in society, there’s still much work to be done.

We’re committed to supporting those who are facing mental health challenges – but this will take a collective effort; if you’re concerned about somebody’s mental health, especially if you think they may be contemplating suicide, approach that person with empathy, patience and compassion.

Feelings of isolation, anxiety, depression or despair may prevent you from sharing what you’re experiencing with friends or family members – which is understandable.

You may find it easier to speak with a trained therapist who can help you cope with the challenges you’re experiencing… which is why we created Juno – to enable you to access the support you need, when you need it, wherever you are. So, no matter who it is with, on World Mental Health Day, start a conversation that matters.

[i] (Chaudron & Caine, 2004)

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17065307

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Motherhood: Expectation vs Reality https://juno-health.com/motherhood-expectation-vs-reality/ https://juno-health.com/motherhood-expectation-vs-reality/#respond Tue, 30 Apr 2019 12:28:38 +0000 https://juno-health.com/?p=7678

Why I think we owe it to one another to be honest about the crazy journey that is motherhood…

Before crossing the threshold of motherhood, I was on a bit of a pregnancy high. I had recently honeymooned in a cute bikini showing off my bump, I drank kale smoothies, and I genuinely enjoyed looking in the mirror. I was going to be a mum. It was going to be wonderful.

I was far less concerned with having real conversations about what life might be like with a child. Then came a 36 hour labour, which led to an unplanned caesarean, which led to a whole host of things that weren’t on my list of things to prepare for: considerable pain & discomfort, unable to drive for several weeks, delayed milk production which meant bottle feeding (which is fine… I had just really set my heart on breastfeeding & it hadn’t occurred to me that I might not be able to).

All of a sudden, my very clear view of what motherhood was going to be like, became somewhat skewed. Turns out that the other side of birth was a totally different experience than I’d ever imagined it to be.

As for my emotional and mental health… that was certainly something I hadn’t prepared for. Of course, I was aware of postnatal depression – but I had everything under control – or so I thought. Plus, ‘depression’… it feels like such a strong word and the associations are not things which I could recognise in myself. But anxiety, that was different – nobody mentioned anxiety – and it certainly had a firm grip of me.

Why hadn’t somebody warned me?

“But anxiety, that was different – nobody mentioned anxiety – and it certainly had a firm grip of me. ”

Although it finally seems like mums are getting real with one another about the experience of motherhood, we definitely need to be more honest; from postpartum body changes to identity crises to realistic expectations.

Mothers-to-be need to hear it. I definitely wish I had.

When I found out I was pregnant with my first (almost 5 years ago), my partner and I could barely contain our excitement. We were right in the middle of wedding planning having just bought a house together and, although the timing wasn’t ideal, a little baby was the perfect way to complete this stage of our life. Friends and family were delighted, and I was very happy to be congratulated (repeatedly) on our news.

As the baby grew inside me I began to connect with her – tracking her development on an app and tuning into every hiccup, wiggle and kick. I even nicknamed her peanut. Things were fine.

But nobody warned me that becoming a mother would be such a mind-blowing, identity-shattering, life changing adjustment. It’s probably fair to say that not only did I overprepare for the birth, I underprepared, naively, for motherhood.

I was in my early 30’s and I had friends with small children – and whilst I accept that perhaps I didn’t ask the right questions – my friends, and other mothers I spoke with, weren’t exactly volunteering the not so glamorous info either. Whilst it was reassuring to be told what a magical experience it is, looking back, I would definitely have appreciated a small dose of reality too.

Don’t get me wrong; I am sure that these reassuring words were truthful, it just painted an unbalanced picture of what life would be like.

My birth wasn’t traumatic, but it wasn’t quite how Id imagined. I thought breastfeeding would come naturally, but it certainly didn’t. And whilst I expected to be tired, I didn’t expect to be so anxious.

There were moments of despair, fear and exhaustion and sometimes these feelings overwhelmed me. Whilst I felt love and adoration for my new baby, I also felt compelled to run for the hills.

All of a sudden, I was not the woman I once was – physically, mentally or emotionally. Fortunately, I had a friend whose sister was a therapist & a quite coincidental conversation with her at a BBQ one afternoon made me realise that I really was struggling. More importantly, it made me realise that feeling the way I did was perfectly normal. But not all women are that lucky & although things are improving there is still a long way to go.

For some reason, mothers often choose to keep quiet about the challenges of motherhood. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it is denial, shame, self-preservation? Whatever the case, this mindset of ‘ignoring’ some of the more difficult emotions that mothers experience, while conveying the illusion of total joy, can be damaging to new mums who often feel isolated, inadequate or completely overwhelmed as a result of the unbalanced picture of motherhood which leads to a significant distortion between expectation and reality.

I felt exhausted, shocked, anxious, trapped, sad and angry about this new phase of my life. It took a good year to get a better understanding of my emotions, to accept that I was struggling with my mental & emotional health and that I needed support.

It is easy to forget that labour comes to an end (although it might not feel like it at the time). But motherhood, if we are as blessed as we all hope to be, can be for an entire lifetime and although nothing and nobody can totally prepare you for the journey that lies ahead, I think that as mothers we owe it to each other to at least talk about it.

I was recently involved in a workshop for a digital health startup called Juno, a healthtech platform building technology to provide access to healthcare professionals via secure message or video consultation on your smartphone or tablet. Their mission is simple: to use technology to transform women’s mental & emotional health, globally and one which resonates with me strongly, so when they asked me to share my story, it was a no brainer.

It took me a long time to feel like I was starting to get my mental health under control – but that is OK. And it is also OK that talking to somebody about how I felt was the difference between struggling and starting to feel better.

So, to all the expecting and new mums out there, remember, it will not all be straightforward, there will be challenges and it is not a weakness to ask for help.

Do I wish there was a service like Juno around when I became a mother? Absolutely.

Good luck!

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The Pregnancy Conspiracy https://juno-health.com/pregnancy-conspiracy/ https://juno-health.com/pregnancy-conspiracy/#respond Tue, 23 Apr 2019 07:58:14 +0000 https://juno-health.com/?p=7653

I had a very interesting conversation with a friend last week who told me of her sister’s take on pregnancy & motherhood, having recently given birth. She called it the pregnancy conspiracy…

That is, the notion that being pregnant and welcoming a new little bundle of joy into your family is utterly wonderful and magical – when in reality, for many women, it can also be a pretty scary and overwhelming experience.

Of course, being pregnant and becoming a mother is wonderful – the thought that a new life, an actual person, is growing and developing inside you is amazing – but it can also be bloody terrifying, and a bit unsettling, and quite often it can be pretty uncomfortable too.

But there seems to be an expectation that an expecting mum should, almost by default, emit a warm, joyous pregnancy glow – delighted at the prospect of her new arrival.

And these social pressures, no doubt exacerbated by social media, mean that many mums feel unable to talk about the challenges that they may be facing; in particular where their mental and emotional health is concerned.

But according to the results of a study published by researchers at Kings College London, one in four women experience mental health issues during pregnancy. These range from anxiety and depression, to eating disorders and OCD, with many women experiencing multiple issues – and some just feeling stressed and exhausted.

So, if it is such a common experience, why are we so afraid to talk about this? It is certainly a very sensitive subject, but so are most health issues. What makes maternal mental health different?

In my view, one word covers it: expectations!

Remember the pregnancy conspiracy? The expectation that pregnancy and motherhood is going to be utterly wonderful…

“Yes, there may be some challenges, but for the most part it will be wonderful”…

And, because this expectation is the ‘norm’, those who struggle don’t feel able to speak out – because it should be wonderful, but it’s not, so it must be my fault, so I’ll keep quiet and hope that ‘wonderful’ kicks in soon.

Some women feel very ashamed they are experiencing these feelings. They’re concerned people will think they’re a bad mother, because everybody else seems to be coping – beaming with joy and pride… But the reality is, they’re probably thinking the exact same thing.

And therein lies the problem – it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Yes, there may be some challenges, but for the most part it will be wonderful… ”

We know that approximately 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year.[i] In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week[ii] – although we have much work to do as a society, we are starting to see a shift in attitudes towards acceptance of this growing public health problem.

But we need to do more.

Our focus at Juno is to ensure that the pace and scale of these changing attitudes not only accelerates but extends to more specific sub-populations such as – yes, you guessed – pregnant women and new mums.

1 in 4 women will experience perinatal mental health problems and we know that psychological therapies are a critical intervention in helping to reduce the adverse effects of maternal mental health conditions and in reducing depressive symptoms in mothers. We know that getting help and support early is the best way to address mental & emotional health challenges.

Which is why we are on a mission to transform women’s emotional healthcare using digital technology as an enabler, to ensure that pregnant women and new mums can access the help and support they need, when they need it.

[i] McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey. The NHS Information Centre for health and social care.

[ii] McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016). Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult psychiatric morbidity survey 2014. Leeds: NHS digital.

If you want to learn more about our mission or want to become a Juno Ambassador, please check out our website or do get in touch: info@juno-health.com

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It’s Good To Talk https://juno-health.com/its-good-to-talk/ https://juno-health.com/its-good-to-talk/#respond Wed, 22 Aug 2018 10:14:07 +0000 http://onetwo.themerella.com/?p=3648

Having a baby is one of the most significant life-events for both mum and dad to be. It is exciting, exhilarating and, ultimately, life changing. The way you think, feel and look start to change and let’s be honest, sometimes, change can be difficult.

We talk about the pregnancy glow, the beautiful bump, the exciting little kicks here and there… but we don’t talk enough about the tricky stuff…the sleepless nights, the scary thoughts, the tiredness, the irrational fears… and because we don’t talk about it, it means when women start to have those feelings, they convince themselves that they are the only ones.  But guess what, you’re not!

One in four women will experience perinatal mental health symptoms either in pregnancy or after giving birth – you are definitely not alone.

Understandably, during pregnancy there is a strong focus on your physical health & wellbeing, from how your bump grows, to sickness & hydration, blood pressure, blood sugars, urine and the frequency of feeling your baby move – but what focus is there on how you feel mentally and emotionally?

“One in four women will experience perinatal mental health symptoms either in pregnancy or after giving birth – you are definitely not alone. ”

The NHS does an excellent job – but it is also under massive pressure. Midwives, obstetricians and nurses are all there to support you and your baby but there are areas for improvement, and nobody can deny that mental health is one of those areas.

Things are changing; there have recently been improvements in NHS mental health services and more people are talking about emotional health, and the fact that it is OK to not be OK. But we still have a long way to go.

Realising that you need help and being brave enough to ask for it takes courage but too many women are afraid to reach out. As a midwife it unsettles me to know that 90% of women who are on anti-depressants stop taking them when they become pregnant – primarily due to fears of how the medication may affect their baby – but they do so without seeking medical advice first, which makes them extremely vulnerable. We need to move the needle – making it OK for women to ask any question at any time, no matter how sensitive the subject might feel.

A pregnancy or new baby will impact your intimate relationships, your sex life, your friendships, your professional life, your daily routines and will almost certainly fuel sleep deprivation – it’s not hard to see how pregnancy and motherhood can have a significant impact on your emotional health. Having a baby can be one of the happiest times of your life and even if you have difficulties with your emotional health that doesn’t mean there aren’t good times, but let’s just be honest – it’s not all plain sailing.

Acknowledging that you are struggling, or need help is a big step in the right direction – and doing it sooner, rather than later is important too.

That is exactly why Juno was founded – to help you access the support you need, when you need it.

Juno is on a mission to transform women’s mental and emotional healthcare by using technology to make it possible for women to access support on a more precise and personalised level than ever before, by delivering access to quality, personalised healthcare wherever you are, whenever you need it.

Sometimes, you just want somebody to talk to, and I know from speaking to mums that quite often it would be nice if that person wasn’t in your immediate circle – a supportive healthcare professional at the touch of a few buttons – no judgement, no GP referral required, no travelling and no long wait.

Juno is building technology to enable one to one session’s with therapists and midwives depending on your needs, designed to be easily accessible from the comfort of your own home or an environment of your choice.

The implications of poor mental & emotional health can be just as detrimental as those of physical health problems; at Juno we recognise this, which is why we want to be there for you, your baby, your partner, and your family.

Check out our website at www.juno-health.com – we’re still building our technology, but you can join our Community and start a conversation with other mums just like you. And if you’re feeling like you have things all under control, then pop over to our Community forum anyway – you might be just the new friend that another mum needs.

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