Why mothers need to put their own health first

It goes against their nature, but mums must make their health a priority so they can then take care of their family.

Think the average CEO puts in long hours?

According to a study by vitamin company Cenovis, the average working mum puts in more than 80 hours a week in an effort to meet today’s work/family lifestyle expectations.

Only 5 per cent take time to rest when they are ill. One third pretend they are well when they’re not. The findings are alarming, but a sign of the times, according to Dr Ginni Mansberg.

“Mums today are not only expected to help bring home the bacon, they feel a pressure to deliver on the domestic front as well, so of course we’re running ourselves ragged,” Dr Mansberg says.

Dr Mansberg lists the top reasons mothers come to see her.

Mental health issues

Post-natal depression may be far more common than we realise.

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia puts the official rate at one in seven, but several studies suggest depression can be even more of a risk as your child gets older.

The Murdoch Childrens Research Institute found that one in three women report depressive symptoms when their child is closer to the four-year mark than newborn stage.

Regardless of when it happens, what’s important is realising symptoms are never textbook, Dr Mansberg says.

“Often women will wait for all-encompassing sadness before they see their GP, but depression often initially shows its face through feelings of anger, outbursts, moodiness and tiredness,” she says.

Anyone experiencing such symptoms should see their family practitioner as soon as they can.

Constant colds and flu

Little ones are notorious for bringing home lurgies from day care and school. Often the mother becomes the host body, explains Dr Mansberg, who sees mums battling colds and flu all year round.

“When women aren’t taking care of themselves – sleeping little, not eating well or exercising – their immune systems suffer, and of course, when mum gets sick, everyone else suffers,” she says.

Help yourself by preparing healthy fruit and veg snacks before you go to bed. Try pushing forward your bedtime at least half an hour earlier. Make your business calls as you take a brisk walk.

It’s that whole oxygen mask theory. Take care of yourself first so that you’re OK to then take care of others.

Sleep deprivation

The one side effect of parenthood that every mother (and father) comes to understand is why sleep deprivation is such a successful form of torture.

In a poll conducted by UK magazine Mother & Baby, 82 per cent of respondents (most who averaged four to five hours a night) reported that their tiredness affected their work; while another study showed acute sleep deprivation made mothers react emotionally, sliding into anxiety in slightly stressful situations.

Sleep is the gateway to good health and must be protected, Dr Mansberg says.

“If your children are sleeping, I recommend mothers sleep too, but if you use this time to catch up on work or ironing, you need to consider hiring a virtual assistant or outsourcing some housework.”

If affordability is an issue, consider downsizing, or a lifestyle change to free up some coin, she adds.

“For a family, there’s nothing more important than a mother’s health.”

Written by Dilvan Yasa