Everyone has heard of the “baby blues” and, while this is a normal aftermath of giving birth, post natal depression (PND) is not. The baby blues are a brief period of time after giving birth when the mother feels teary and emotional. It is more than likely due to the change in hormones, particularly in breastfeeding mothers, and should resolve itself within a week or two. Post natal depression, however, is an illness that can occur at any time during the first year following childbirth and needs to be treated. It is surprising how many women struggle with PND and yet few can identify the symptoms or feel comfortable seeking help when they are struggling. In Australia it is estimated that that 6-22% of women experience depression following the birth of their baby (Braun and Hartmann, 2015).
Telling the difference between ordinary baby blues and Post natal depression is the first step in finding help and getting through this difficult time. While baby blues leave a woman feeling teary, irritable, lonely, or anxious for the first week or so after giving birth,Post natal depression takes it a step further and often leaves mum feeling hopeless and anxious consistently for two weeks or more. Other symptoms include disabling thoughts about not being fit for motherhood, negative feelings toward the baby, irrational fears, persistent low mood and loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable. The mother struggles to sleep, even when given a chance, and experiences changes in her appetite. Some women may even begin to have suicidal thoughts.
What can I do?
Struggling withPost natal depression does not mean you are “weak”, or that you have failed at motherhood. There is absolutely nothing to feel ashamed about. The statistics show that there are a significant number of women who struggle withPost natal depression. Unfortunately Post natal depression also robs most mothers of the joys of parenting in the early days and in some cases affects the attachment between mother and baby. In this sense, identifying the condition and acknowledging your need for help will assist on the road to recovery and to a more fulfilling relationship with motherhood. So, if you are concerned about how you are feeling and have been having symptoms for over two weeks talk to your partner or other supportive people in your environment and, where possible, seek professional assistance. Changes has several psychologists experienced in supporting families through Post natal depression and other parenting challenges.
Braun, K., & Hartmann, J. (2015). Antenatal and Postnatal Depression. Womens’ Health: Brisbane, QLD.