For many women and their families, having a baby is the most significant life-changing event they will ever experience.
Pregnancy and early parenthood depression and anxiety can happen at any time – but we know women are more likely to experience these during pregnancy and the year following birth.
Postnatal depression (PND) is a common problem. For a long time it was thought that about one in 10 mums suffers from PND. It’s now thought that as many as one in four mums is affected by it.
PND vs. the Baby Blues
PND can sometimes be confused with the baby blues. If you get the baby blues, you will feel miserable, weepy, tired and tense during the first few days after giving birth. This is thought to be because of huge hormonal changes in your body. With the right support, you should feel better within a few days. However, PND, unlike the baby blues, is an illness. It’s unlikely to go away without treatment.
How will I know I have PND?
The signs and symptoms are different for every mum, but you are likely to feel:
- a sense of hopelessness
All mums have at least one of these feelings some of the time. But if you’re overwhelmed by them and they don’t get better with time, you could have PND.
Usually, PND develops when your baby is between four and six weeks old, but sometimes it starts months after he was born. You may have been really enjoying looking after your baby and then find depression crept up on you. If you were depressed while you were pregnant your baby’s arrival may not help to lift your depression.
If you have any doubt about whether you may be experiencing PND, Beyond Blue has a helpful checklist. You could also start by talking to your partner, then approach your child health nurse, your GP or a psychologist for advice.
A mother’s relationship with her baby during postnatal depression
A woman with PND tends to withdraw from everyone, including her baby. This is a symptom of the disorder and doesn’t mean that she is a ‘bad’ mother. Some people think that bonding between the mother and child has to happen within the first few days or weeks of birth, or else it won’t happen at all. This is not true.
The relationship between a mother and her baby is an ongoing process. Once the depression lifts, the mother will be able to once again feel her full range of emotions and start to enjoy her baby. In the meantime, she might need some extra help from family and friends.
Fathers can also develop PND
A recent British study found that around three per cent of new fathers are prone to PND, particularly if their partner or wife is depressed. In families where one of the parents already has a child or children from a previous relationship, the rate of PND in fathers rises to around seven per cent.
Other risk factors for PND in fathers include:
- Older age
- First-time parent
- Small circle of friends
- Limited social interaction and support
- Limited education
- Concurrent stressful life events
- Quality of the relationship with wife or partner.
The important thing to remember about PND is that with the right help, you will get better.
If you are experiencing any distressing symptoms that are causing you concern your Doctor, Midwife, or Child and Family Health Nurse can provide you with assistance or arrange for you to see a specialist.
Article By: Vision Counselling and Psychology, Perth, Western Australia
Web Address: www.visioncounselling.com.au
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“What are the Signs and Symptoms of Postnatal Depression?” (Baby Center), Available: https://www.babycenter.com.au/x3452/what-are-the-signs-of-postnatal-depression (Accessed 2014, June 12) Image Reference: Dollar Photo Club