Former international middle-distance runner Jess Parson has bravely spoken out about the trauma of suffering two miscarriages within six months.
And she is now more determined than ever to help women experiencing all forms of maternal mental health issues.
The 31-year-old athlete, who has a three-year-old son, Finn, has spent the past couple of years encouraging new mums to enjoy running and other forms of exercise as a way of coping with the pressures of modern life.
Parson, who comes from Wales and lives in Monymusk with husband Simon, competed for her country in the 800m at junior level.
And a few years ago she represented Great Britain in the 25-29 world age group championships in Spain, finishing seventh.
However, her sporting priorities changed when Finn came into her life and she realised the need to move in a new direction.
Parson said: “In 2018 I decided to take a career break from teaching to spend more time with Finn.
“I also had an idea to set up a mums-on-the-run group which would provide a way for mums to return safely to running, post-baby, and to socialise while exercising.
“The main focus was on stressing the mental health benefits which come from exercise, while also giving them an opportunity to discuss any issues they might have.
“I made so many mistakes when coming back to running after having Finn. There was nothing out there, and if there was, it was so hard to find.
“A lot of the things that can happen after having a baby weren’t spoken about, so I used this as a platform to help women, to point out some of the things they should be looking out for and who they could go and see. It has grown from there.
“It’s only over the past 18 months or so that some informed guidelines have come out to advise new mums what to do. They were often getting the green light to start running after six weeks.
“I can understand why women, especially good athletes, want to get back running as soon as possible, but they can do a lot of damage.
“They can build up problems for the next 20 to 30 years by starting back too soon.
“It’s better to take six months and rehab correctly over that period, and if they do, they’ll come back stronger.
“Over the past two years there have been anything from 100 to 150 women who have taken part in the mums-on-the-run sessions. They are mainly from Inverurie and the surrounding area.
“Before the current lockdown we would meet on a Wednesday evening and a Friday morning, but at the moment we are doing it virtually, on social media, and that’s working well. I still set them runs and other tasks to do and everyone is motivating each other to keep going.
“The group also recently took part in a virtual relay, each person running as far as possible in 30min, and we raised £332 for Latnem, an Inverurie-based maternal mental health support group available to local mums.
“I have found something I enjoy. It’s my passion and I just want to keep learning more.”
The personal tragedies Parson has experienced have reinforced her desire to continue the good work she’s doing to help others.
She said: “I lost a baby in December and another in April. Miscarriage is so common and I feel that by me speaking about it I’ve encouraged others to do so.
“Some women simply hadn’t spoken about it until then.
“I’d never wish it on anyone, but now I’ve been through it myself I feel I know what to say and how to support others.
“But it’s a two-way process. Everyone has been great and they have helped me. They motivate me as much as I motivate them.”
Anyone wishing further information can find Mums on the Run Inverurie and Latnem on Facebook.