#SunMedHerStories Raising Healthy Families: ​The Importance of Mental Health in Mothers​

14 March 2022

Women are under intense scrutiny to be more perfect than ever, thanks to social media. We speak to Datin Dr Halina Mohd Yunos on the importance of self-care for every mother.

Kourtney Kardashian, Megan Fox, Heidi Klum… the list of celebrity mothers that have bounced back to their pre-pregnancy bodies some as soon as a month after giving birth has put unrealistic pressure on so many young mothers to do the same. Similarly, scrolling through social media and the endless images of picture-perfect postpartum mothers and babies makes it seem like such a breeze … so why is this image so different from your current reality as a young mother? We speak to Datin Dr Halina Mohd Yunos, an influencer and ICU Resident Doctor at Sunway Medical Centre and mother of six children with her husband, Dato’ Dr Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor–Malaysia’s first astronaut.

Datin Dr Halina, it does seem like mothers these days are under so much pressure to make motherhood look like a breeze.

This is the norm nowadays; people don’t put their real selves on social media. I like to think that for every picture-perfect Instagram photo, there’s actually a mother trying to hide things under the chair or under the carpet … just for that one photo! This is dangerous, because it can make other mothers feel inadequate, and that is the danger of social media. This is why I go against the norm on my own social media; my house is never Instagrammable …which is true!

With so much focus being put on looking picture-perfect, it is no wonder that many new parents might find themselves struggling with their mental health. What would your advice be to them?

Be kind to yourself, and be kind to your children. Motherhood and parenting is hard. We sometimes have targets that knowingly or unknowingly we push on our child but we are actually losing them when we make them do things that we want them to, not things that they want to do. As a result, they end up not enjoying their childhood.

Would you say then, that there is a correlation between maternal health and the health of their children?

Indirectly, yes. A healthy mom physically and mentally will help to raise a healthy baby.

As a mother of six yourself, what is your advice to postpartum mothers? What can mothers do during this challenging phase of their lives?

Self-care is very important. Of course, you might not have time to put on a face mask or keep up with an 11-step skincare process, but if you can … find help. Whether it’s your mother, mother-in-law, or confinement lady, just get help whenever you can because things are not easy ... and it will be rough.

Let’s talk about post-pregnancy bodies; how should women think and talk about their postpartum bodies?

You should look at the scars on your abdomen as your “tiger stripes''; you’ve earned it! It was hard work, so wear it with pride. You should learn to appreciate your body more. Do not compare it with Hollywood or social media; it is really unhealthy. For models and celebrities, it is their job to look perfect and bounce back without scars, but some of us are moms with careers and other children; we just have to accept the way we are.

It is also important not to feel bad if you find that your body is now not capable of doing things that it once used to. We will not go back to our old selves immediately, as some people may portray on social media–and that’s okay.

That’s so refreshing to hear, a lot of mothers can feel like they are failing at motherhood sometimes.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Motherhood is hard—it’s not easy. But women will do things right, and we will get through this.

Something we don’t talk about enough is postpartum depression; with symptoms such as feeling helpless, sad, anxious.  What can be done to help mothers going through this?

It’s very important for husbands to educate themselves on the signs of postpartum depression as well. Things such as loss of appetite or interest in their baby or constantly feeling sad are just some of the symptoms. If this occurs, bring your wife to the gynaecologist, because depressed patients typically do not realise that they are depressed. It is the people around the patient who will notice the changes in behaviour.

If you know of a mother showing symptoms of postpartum depression, talk to our team of gynaecologist by making an appointment here.

See where you stack up in The New Parents Cheat Sheet.