YOUNG mothers suffering in the grip of loneliness are reluctant to get help due to fear of being judged, a charity has warned.
New research out today by the Co-op and the British Red Cross has revealed the “shocking” extent of loneliness among new mothers. It says 82 per cent of new mothers under the age of 30 feel lonely some of the time, while almost half, 43 per cent, are lonely often or always.
The survey shows a sense of isolation is felt most acutely by younger mothers, with almost half, 49 per cent, of those aged between 18 and 25 often or always lonely compared with 37 per cent who are aged between 26 and 30.
More than 80 per cent of mums under 30 say they meet their friends less often after having their child, with lack of money and the hassle of arranging childcare barriers to socialising.
Now the Co-op and the British Red Cross, which have been working together for three years to help tackle loneliness, are pairing up with family support charity Home-Start, which works across Yorkshire, to expand its community support groups to help young parents experiencing loneliness.
Home-Start UK deputy chief executive Vivien Waterfield said: “Having a baby changes your life in so many ways – and it can be a really lonely time, especially for younger mums when they don’t have networks of support around them. It can have a huge impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
“The number of mums telling us they are lonely or isolated has been increasing in recent years to almost one in two of all mums using Home-Start services.
“Younger mums often tell us that they’re reluctant to use existing services because of fear of being judged.”
Mother-of-two Shannon, 20, and 17-year-old Hope, who has a two-year-old son, both attend a Home-Start group for young mums in Dewsbury.
Shannon said: “I was 18 and at college when I had my first child. When I found out I was pregnant, a lot of my friends distanced themselves from me, and when I had my son I didn’t want to go out much as I felt people were judging me.
“Coming to the group has helped me to thrive as a mum.”
Hope added: “I was 14 when I had my baby, and went back to school but didn’t talk to anybody about it, just got on with my work. When you’re pregnant, everyone says they’ll support you but when the baby gets here they disappear.
“But finding this group has been brilliant, it’s helped me to find my voice.”
The Yorkshire Post has been campaigning to highlight the issue of loneliness, which can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, since 2014. This week marks Maternal Mental Health Matters Week. More than one in 10 mothers develop a mental illness during pregnancy or in the year that follows.
Executive director of communications and advocacy at British Red Cross, Zoë Abrams, said: “For some women, becoming a mother might mean they lose touch with their existing social connections and find it difficult to make new ones,” she said. “Helping people feel better-connected in their communities and responding quickly when loneliness first takes hold is vital to reduce the serious impact felt by people.”