Post Natal Depression is more than the “Baby Blues”.
Bringing a new baby into the world can be the most amazing and most terrifying thing that any of us will do. Through the roller-coaster ride of childbirth and caring for a new baby, many of us have experienced moments of sadness, anxiety, fear and shock in amongst the pure joy, elation and love that a newborn brings.
These feelings are entirely normal, and in fact, the ‘baby blues’ are a well-documented experience for many new mums in the hours and days following the birth of a baby. The baby blues will normally recede without intervention, but some mums continue to struggle to adapt to the new life they have very suddenly found themselves in.
It is when these negative feelings start to settle in and feature in day to day life that Post Natal Depression might be occurring.
Why do you feel depressed after giving birth?
The idea that this tiny little person is entirely dependent on you can be overwhelming, not to mention the total upheaval to your life and identity, and some mums start to question whether they are up for the job. You may find yourself constantly questioning whether you’re doing the right thing, or simply thinking that they would be better off without you.
Some mums may struggle to bond with their baby for a variety of reasons, and in some cases, find it too overwhelming to even hold him / her.
It can be difficult to see anything outside the groundhog day that is life with a young baby, and you may be unable to enjoy the happy moments that pop up, even though you know they are there.
You might not be feeling what you think you ‘should’ be feeling, and find it easier to simply not talk to people rather than sharing the fact that you are not loving parenthood.
Sometimes you might just feel angry about where life has taken you, with an overwhelming feeling of “what have I done?”
What is Post Natal Depression (PND)?
Post Natal Depression is a depressive mood disorder that starts within 3 months (sometimes up to 6 months) of giving birth and can last a few weeks or even up to a year or more. In some cases, usually without treatment, Post Natal Depression can become an ongoing depressive mood disorder.
How can I tell if I have it?
There is no one size fits all when it comes to Post Natal Depression, but research has suggested that there is a greater likelihood of occurrence for women who have experienced severe PMS pre-pregnancy, have difficult relationships and limited support, experience depression throughout the pregnancy or experience delivery complications and difficulties during the birth process.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of Post Natal Depression are very similar to those experienced in a major depressive episode, and can include:
- Constant feelings of anxiety or depressed mood
- Continuous exhaustion and lack of energy
- Too much or too little sleep
- Appetite changes, including significant weight loss or weight gain
- Feelings of guilt / shame / anger / incompetence / hopelessness
- Loss of libido
- Obsessional thoughts or activities
- Inability to leave the house
- Intense and exaggerated fears about yourself, the baby or your partner
- Suicidal thoughts, plans or actions
How common is Post Natal Depression?
Post Natal Depression occurs in approximately 10% of women, compared to 70% who experience the ‘baby blues’.
It is important to note that 80% of all depression can be treated, but only 1 in 3 seriously depressed people ever seeks treatment. There is no need to suffer this pain in silence, as there is help available.
There is often such a focus on the physical health of both mum and baby after birth that sometimes psychological health can fall by the wayside.
It is important that your mental health is a priority and is maintained, after all, happy mum equals happy baby.
How can a psychologist help with Post Natal Depression?
When you come in, your Psychologist will gain an understanding from you about how you are feeling and thinking, and the circumstances of your life. You will often be asked to do some simple tests, and these will help to assess whether you do have Post Natal Depression, or any other issue, and give an idea as to the severity.
You will also be asked questions to uncover what might be the causes and stressors in your life, and your Psychologist will work with you to devise a treatment plan that will suit you and your lifestyle.
After your initial session, you will have some insight into what the problem is, a plan for therapy for the future, and some initial strategies to help get you started.
As with all forms of depression, exercise has also consistently been shown to be very effective in managing and overcoming PND. You don’t need to take out a gym membership or become a yoga guru (it can be as simple as a quick walk with bub in the fresh air!), but your psychologist will encourage you to explore some options to start (or continue) exercising as part of your treatment plan. Some ideas might include finding a friend to walk with (you’d be surprised how quickly 30 minutes can disappear!), signing up to a mum and bub fitness class or even a baby friendly yoga class, and if you are a fan of the gym, perhaps find a gym that offers a crèche service.
If you feel like you'd like help managing and taking back control of your Post Natal Depression, our psychologists across Australia specialise in this field.
We have psychologists that can help in Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Gold Coast, Canberra, Townsville, Sunshine Coast, Perth and Adelaide. Phone our friendly receptionists on 1300 830 552 and they can help you find the right Psychologist for you.