Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Andrea Allen, right, and Louise Moulsdale (with her son Liam) are among "a group of mums who have all had postnatal depression," Allen says, and founded the group Out of the Blues. Razan Alzayani / The National
Andrea Allen, right, and Louise Moulsdale (with her son Liam) are among 'a group of mums who have all had postnatal depression,' Allen says, and founded the group Out of the Blues. Razan Alzayani / The National

Help for UAE mums with postnatal depression

Five Dubai women have started a support group to ensure that new mothers know they're not alone.

Having a newborn baby can be overwhelming and confusing, even if you find yourself a natural mum. But if you're one of the increasing numbers of women affected by postnatal depression (PND) - recent studies indicate it could be as many as one in five - then it's likely to be an altogether different experience. Thankfully, it's not something you'll have to go through alone; a new support group has been set up in Dubai to help women through what could otherwise be a horrendous time.

"We're a group of mums who have all had postnatal depression. After meeting through various online forums, we realised there was a real need for support for women like us in Dubai and the UAE," says Andrea Allen, 39, a co-founder of Out of the Blues.

The group organises regular coffee mornings and evening get-togethers, which have attracted many of their more than 70 members.

Calling themselves the Blue Angels, the group's five founding members also provide individual support.

"We're meeting many women on a one-to-one basis, calling and taking calls, using WhatsApp and text messaging, e-mailing and, of course, we have the Facebook page and the BigTent forum, which is completely private and secure," Allen says. "Basically, we're just making sure there's someone here to listen if you need it."

The positive reaction to the private support proves that there is a desperate need for the help the group provides, Allen says. None of the Blue Angels is a counsellor or a medical professional. Rather, the support offered is as a peer - someone who's been there and knows what you're going through.

"We can recommend sympathetic doctors or counsellors and share information we've found helpful but that's it," Allen says. "We're simply here for hand-holding. We can help because we know how you feel."

One of the many factors contributing to the need for Out of the Blues, says Allen, is the lack of adequate pre- and postnatal care. "Health care is not what it should be, with many women saying they feel they're just a number, and many reporting birth trauma which is a huge factor in PND," she explains.

"Post-birth, women don't have access to home visits from health care professionals unless they pay privately, and it's not covered by insurance. Equally, some insurance companies don't cover mental health, and those that do have restrictions or require referrals."

Allen says many women tell stories of doctors keen to simply prescribe medication and leave patients to fend for themselves. "Doctors don't seem to be routinely referring to counsellors. Recent research has shown a two-pronged approach with both medication and professional counselling may well be the best bet," she explains.

Another factor that prevents women from seeking treatment is the continuing social stigma surrounding mental health issues, even when the causes of the illness are so overwhelmingly physical, caused by pregnancy and childbirth.

"Lots of women find it difficult to talk to their family and friends about how they're feeling, as they don't want to be judged," Allen says.

And those closest to us aren't always in a position to assist. "Families ... haven't necessarily experienced it and don't know what it's like. One of the key things I found was that I needed to talk to someone who would validate how I was feeling," Allen says. "It shows you you're not alone. You're not insane. You're not a terrible mother - all the things you are feeling instead of what you think you should be feeling."

The resulting situation is, for many women, quite desperate. "You really shouldn't have to fight to get help when you've already hit rock bottom."

Although the group began in Dubai, the Blue Angels have been contacted by women in Abu Dhabi and as far away as Qatar. "It would be great to set up similar support networks in other emirates and around the region, since we've shown that there is a need," Allen says. "One of the Abu Dhabi-based ladies said she'd be interested in hosting a coffee morning, so we'll have to see what happens there."

Looking to the future, Allen's hopes for the group are high. "I'd like to see the group become obsolete," she says. "That would mean the medical provision has improved to the point where there's no need for the group - although of course there will likely always be a place for peer support as a part of comprehensive pre- and postnatal care."

Out of the Blues can be contacted on outofthebluesdubai@gmail.com or via their Facebook page

One mum's story

"I hated my new life and wished I could go back to work again, have a lie-in - or any form of sleep more than 30 minutes - and actually be called by my name and not just 'Cameron's mummy'. I broke each day up into sections just so I could get through it; I knew if I could make it to lunchtime, I'd hopefully get a break when Cameron had his nap. But then I dreaded him waking up, because I had no idea what to do with him in the afternoon until dinner and bath time.

"I found playing with a baby so boring, and I thought I must be the worst mother ever - how could everyone else make it look so easy? And how did they find the time for anything apart from the baby, like making delicious home-made food? Everyone used to say sleep when the baby sleeps, but my husband was away at least two weeks out of every month and I had to cook, clean and wash in those small opportunities. I found life so lonely. It was simply horrific having a baby 24 hours a day, seven days a week on my own with no break." Louise Hickman, British mum

artslife@thenational.ae

twitter Follow us @LifeNationalUAE

Follow us on Facebook for discussions, entertainment, reviews, wellness and news.

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Thoughtful tailoring at Asudari

The womenswear label Asudari showcased a collection that featured sharp masculine tailoring, but with feminine silhouettes.

Styled with bleached bobs and pale skin, the models wore clean and sporty separates reminiscent of the chic workwear of The Hunger Games.

Designer Lamia Asudari says she was influenced by Delftware ceramics from the 16th century, as well as the imagery of weaponry and artillery. Indeed, pistols, grenades and guns were emblazoned over jackets and dresses.

 Several of Jo Baaklini's pieces featured fruit prints. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: At Starch, watermelon shirts, anyone?

“We need to cultivate our own fashion heroes — our own regional brands,” stressed Fashion Forward’s honcho Bong Guerrero in a press con two weeks ago.

Aptly, the slot for this season’s opening runway show was given to two newbies: Jo Baaklini and Timi Hayek, whose talents were scouted by Starch, a group dedicated to launching emerging Lebanese designers.

Between the two, Mr Baaklini had a stronger showing.

 Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece. Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Jean Louis Sabaji’s debatable debut

Jean Louis Sabaji’s collection was very good when the tricks were toned down — like the simple white jumpsuit with a sculptural neckpiece, the floral crop top, and the radiant yellow pleated skirt.

But most of the time he went too far. There were bell-bottoms, separates that looked like costumes from The Jetsons, and a yellow dress reminiscent of Bjork’s infamous Oscars swan dress — several disparate elements in one multicoloured, multilayered show.

 Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all.” Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Kage pleases all palates

Did the designers of Kage aim to showcase every type of basic clothing on their latest show?

Because there were skirts, shorts, trousers, off-shoulder tops, short dresses, cocktail dresses, long flowy dresses, spaghetti straps, jackets, hoods — and even pyjamas, which with the incoming summer heat, looked especially appealing.

Launched in 2009 by childhood friends Arwa Abdelhadi and Basma Abu Ghazaleh, Kage bills itself as a label whose “ultimate goal is to design a collection appealing to all”, they said in their statement.

 The standout was a grey hooded cape that created a tension between edge and elegance. Courtesy Getty Images

Fashion Forward: Polish, craft (and fur!) at The Emperor 1688

The best show of Day 1 at Fashion Forward was delivered by the three Golkar brothers behind The Emperor 1688.

The coats and capes were the clear winners: they came in all sorts of interesting colours and sizes — and featured exceptionally tailored proportions. There was a lot of volume, but also stiffness.

And whimsy: two favourites were a green double-breasted suit and a blue overcoat with a red clover pattern and gold buttons.

 Midway through Ezra's show, snow started falling from the ceiling. Ian Gavan / Getty Images for Fashion Forward

Fashion Forward: Ezra stuns in snow-covered show

Turns out the Filipino designer Ezra, known for his dreamy couture, still had a few surprises up his sleeve.

Midway through his show, snow started falling from the ceiling.

It created a starkly beautiful atmosphere for his intricately constructed gowns that seemed to be designed for an Ice Queen transported back to the 1950s.

He showed a collection that had a lot of technical firepower behind it: glittering iridescent fabrics paired with head and neckpieces that were moulded and stiffened to stand out in odd angles.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National