While depression and anxiety can occur at any stage in life we know it is more likely for women to experience depression during pregnancy, and for up to a year following childbirth. Depression at this stage can have serious and lasting impacts for both mother and baby. Often unnecessary shame and isolation can discourage many new mums seeking help. This article hopes to provide information to help expecting, new mums or loved ones know when is the right time to seek help.
Women often find that pregnancy and motherhood are not as they expected. There is a strong positive image portrayed in the media, presenting pregnancy as a glowing, blissful, happy and exciting time. It certainly can be all of these things, but more often than not it is incredibly challenging, messy and less than perfect. Many women (especially during pregnancy) struggle with low self-confidence, anxiety and/ or depression. Your self-confidence through enormous changes to be able to grow and nurture a new life. Throughout the pregnancy you will have made significant emotional adjustments alongside your changing body, shifting roles and additional responsibilities. And yet the challenge is just beginning at the birth of your baby. Up to a week after the birth, it is very common to experience significant hormonal changes resulting in the ‘baby blues’, including tearfulness, difficulty sleeping and sadness. However, roughly one in seven women will go on to experience postnatal depression. It is important to distinguish between the ‘baby blues’ and Postnatal Depression (PND). Read on to find out more about how to know if and when to seek help.
What is Postnatal Depression?
Postnatal depression is the name given to depression that develops between one month and a year after the baby is born. The symptoms may be gradual or sudden and it affects 16 % of women in Australia. The symptoms of Postnatal depression are the same symptoms that occur with depression, the main difference being that PND is linked to pregnancy and childbirth. This is where it can get a little confusing, at this time in your life it can be difficult to determine which changes are naturally occurring because of motherhood and which are linked to depression. For example, changes in your sleep and appetite may be linked to caring for your new baby but are also symptoms of depression.
If you are experiencing some of the symptoms below for more than two weeks then it is important to seek treatment and help.
- Low mood and/or feeling numb
- Feeling inadequate, sad, guilty, hopeless, ashamed, worthless, or thoughts of being a failure
- Feeling angry, irritable or resentful
- Feeling tearful
- Fear for the baby and/or fear of being alone with the baby
- Fear of going out and/or withdrawing from social contact
- Feeling unmotivated, feeling unable to cope with the daily routine
- Loss of interest in things that you previously enjoyed
- Insomnia (being unable to fall asleep or get back to sleep after night feeds)
- Or excessive (too much) sleep, having nightmares
- Appetite changes (not eating or over-eating)
- Not looking after yourself properly
- Lack of energy/ exhaustion
- Difficulty concentrating, difficulty making decisions and poor memory
- Thoughts of harming yourself or the baby, ending your life, or wanting to escape or get away from everything.
- Relationship concerns, such as worrying your partner may leave once the baby is born
- Conflict with parents: pregnancy can often stir up emotions regarding your own childhood
- Fear of seeking help
If you are experiencing these symptoms for two weeks or more then please consider the idea of speaking to someone about how you are feeling. PND is real, it won’t go away by trying harder or battling on but the best thing is that effective help and support is available. Reach out and speak to your midwife, family health nurse, family members, friends or the team at Positive Mind Works.
Complete an online confidential postnatal depression questionnaire by clicking here
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