talkhealth meets... Dr Eloise Elphinstone
Last month, the World Health Organisation released an updated report on global postnatal care. It reads: “Global agendas are expanding their focus to ensure that women and babies not only survive but also thrive and reach their full potential for mental health and well-being".
As focus shifts to better care for mums, not just their babies, we wanted to find out more from GP and women’s health expert Dr Eloise Elphinstone.
Before her webinar, we asked her some important questions....
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Why are you so interested in women’s health and family planning?
I’ve always loved women’s health and considered Obstetrics and Gynaecology as my first career. I spent a year in Australia, working in this area before moving back to the UK to become a GP. I love the variety that general practice gives me, and I always try to bring my passion for women’s health into my work. I really love having expertise in one area and I find that at I can relate to my own experiences to help others. Women’s health is a really satisfying area to work in, as ultimately there is often something that can be done to help. Sadly, though there is often not enough help out there.
Why is work in this area so important?
Women’s health is often not prioritised which leads to women suffering. The new focus on menopause is brilliant, but there is still a long way to go. We now need to start focusing on other women’s health conditions - including postnatal health - as I feel there is very little support out there.
How have conversations around women’s health and family planning changed since you have been practising?
Things are slowly improving however until people start talking more openly, women will continue to suffer in silence. Often people do not necessarily know they need help, or where to get help from – these issues will be solved with improved conversations. So many women I see are asking about menopause and HRT as they have spoken to friends and family about it, we need to see this in other women’s health areas too.
Why do you want to push better self-care for mothers? Why is this important?
Mothers focus so much on their babies; they often forget about themselves. It is so important to look after yourself first, as ultimately, you need to be fit and strong (both physically and mentally) to properly care for your baby and children. The postnatal period can be scary and lonely, and women must make sure they get help for birth recovery and adjusting as a mother.
What health pressures exist for new mums?
There can be a lot of pressure to look and feel ‘perfect’ and be a ‘glowing, thriving mother’. However, this is often not the reality. It is normal for your body to take around a year to return to pre-pregnancy weight. It is really common for your pelvic floor to be weakened leading to leakage. Lastly feeling more emotional is a very common symptom which improves as you get more sleep. That said, it is important to seek help if any of these continue.
What are the first steps a mum should take to look after her own health after giving birth?
It’s important to say here that no one should be pressured into doing anything that doesn’t feel right. Also, remember that asking for help is not a failure. These small things can make a huge difference:
- Try to leave the house once a day
- Eat regularly – freezing is great for ensuring you have simple, nutritious meals
- Try to keep alcohol to a minimum and avoid drinking before breast feeding
- Avoid smoking as it can be harmful to the baby and it can also affect breast milk production
- Caffeine can make babies restless, so try and restrict caffeine to around one cup of coffee or two of tea a day. You could try decaffeinated versions or fruit teas instead.
- Continue to drink plenty of water. Aim for 6 to 8 cups a day, you need more if you’re breastfeeding.
You work in busy London, what does your everyday look like?
Working in a GP clinic is exhausting but an extremely satisfying job. I start my day at 08:30 and tend to finish at around 18:00. I have around 10 minutes to see each patient and have around 30 appointments a day! At lunchtime, I do paperwork and planned visits. I really love getting to know my patients, which is easier now that I can see them face to face again. It is tough at the moment as there are not enough appointments and long hospital waiting times which make it hard for everyone, but we are trying our best!
On Thursdays, I hold a private and an NHS menopause clinic. This is where I see more complex menopause patients or patients who have struggled to get the help they need.
What are some simple tips for better mental wellbeing after having a baby?
- Exercise: It doesn’t have to be intense. Yoga or Pilates can be really good for your wellbeing and mood. Often there are classes you can take your baby to.
- Nutrition: Eat healthy foods regularly. Try not to go without food for long periods because sugar dips can result in tiredness and irritability. Try to avoid foods high in sugar, as they can cause a sugar surge followed by a dip, which can make you feel low.
- Social contact: Meeting other new parents can help boost your mood, prevent you feeling lonely or isolated and allow you to compare experiences.
- Improve sleep and try to rest: Avoid looking at screens in bed; establish a bedtime routine; try and sleep when your baby is sleeping; keep the room cool and dark; avoid caffeine and heavy meals near bedtime; write down any worries to clear them from your mind; and consider meditation.
- There are some useful apps (such as headspace or Calm) which can be helpful if you are feeling down or low.
However if your mood is dropping and none of these steps work, then it is important to seek help as you may be suffering from postnatal depression.
Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. The content however should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands or treatments.
Information written by the talkhealth team
Last revised: 9 June 2022
Next review: 9 June 2025