The Duchess of Cambridge knows the emotional challenges women can face when they become mothers.
On Thursday, the former Kate Middleton delivered a powerful speech about motherhood and mental health at the launch of a series of educational films from the charity Best Beginnings. Titled “Out of the Blue,” the series covers topics like mental health during pregnancy, bonding with your baby and postpartum well-being.
“Personally, becoming a mother has been such a rewarding and wonderful experience,” she said. “However, at times it has also been a huge challenge, even for me who has support at home that most mothers do not.”
The duchess and her husband, Prince William, are parents to 3-year-old George and 1-year-old Charlotte.
“Nothing can really prepare you for you the sheer overwhelming experience of what it means to become a mother,” Kate said in her speech. “It is full of complex emotions of joy, exhaustion, love and worry all mixed together. Your fundamental identity changes overnight. You go from thinking of yourself as primarily an individual, to suddenly being a mother, first and foremost.”
She continued, “And yet, there is no rule book, no right or wrong — you just have to make it up and do the very best you can to care for your family. For many mothers, myself included, this can, at times lead to lack of confidence and feelings of ignorance. Sadly, for some mothers, this experience can be made so much harder due to challenges with their own mental health.”
The duchess cited some statistics about the number of women who face mental health challenges during pregnancy and after giving birth. Although it is quite common, many mothers struggle to speak out about their issues due to feelings of fear and shame, she noted.
“Some of this fear is about the pressure to be a perfect parent ― pretending we’re all coping perfectly and loving every minute of it,” Kate said. “It is right to talk about motherhood as a wonderful thing, but we also need to talk about its stresses and strains. It’s OK not to find it easy, and asking for help should not be seen as a sign of weakness.”
She added, “If any of us caught a fever during pregnancy, we would seek advice and support from a doctor. Getting help with our mental health is no different. Our children need us to look after ourselves and get the support we need.”
To promote mental well-being, Kate suggested parents first turn to friends or other people they trust to talk out their feelings and have conversations about mental health in everyday life.
In honor of Mother’s Day, which the U.K. celebrates this weekend, she concluded her speech with a call for everyone to honor moms and the important roles they play in their families.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have committed themselves to promoting conversation around mental health and breaking down the stigma of mental illness. In 2016, they launched an initiative called “Heads Together” and frequently visit organizations dedicated to providing mental health support.
In her speech on Thursday, Kate also recognized the attacks that took place on Wednesday.
“I know you would all want to join me in sending our thoughts and prayers to all those sadly affected by yesterday’s terrible attack in Westminster,” she said. “We will be thinking of all the families, as we discuss the important issues we’re here to talk about.”