What is Post Natal Depression (PND)
The arrival of a new baby is one of life’s happiest moments, yet it can also be associated with a huge amount of anxiety, exhaustion and stress. A large number of new mothers can go through a period of feeling very emotional and tearful after the arrival of a child (often referred to as the ‘baby blues’). It is estimated that one in ten mothers will go on to develop more intense and long term symptoms, known as Post Natal depression (PND).
The symptoms of Post Natal Depression are similar to those of general depression and will usually involve the parent becoming emotionally withdrawn and overwhelmed with feelings of despair and guilt. Depending on the severity, you may struggle to look after yourself and your baby. You may find simple tasks difficult to manage.
Sometimes there is an obvious reason for PND, but not always. You may feel distressed, or guilty for feeling like this, as society expects parents to be happy about having a baby. However, it is important to remember that PND can happen to anyone and it is not your fault!
PND often starts within one or two months of giving birth. About a third of women with PND have symptoms, which started in pregnancy and continue after birth.
Postnatal depression can affect men too. The birth of a new baby can be stressful for both parents and some fathers feel unable to cope, or feel they are not giving their partner the support she needs. A study published in 2011 found 1 in 10 men experienced depression after the birth of their child.
What are the Symptoms of Post Natal Depression?
The symptoms are similar to those that occur with depression at any other time. They usually include one or more of the following. In postnatal depression, symptoms are usually there on most days, for most of the time, for two weeks or more.
- Low mood: you feel low, unhappy and tearful for much or all of the time. It tends to be worse first thing in the morning, but not always.
- Not really enjoying anything: lack of interest in yourself and your baby.
- Tired: all new mums get tired and depression can make you feel totally exhausted and lacking in energy
- Sleepless: even though you are tired, you are unable to fall asleep. You may lie awake worrying about things
- Appetite changes: you may lose your appetite and forget to eat or you may find yourself eating for comfort and then feel bad about gaining weight
- Inability to enjoy things: you may find that you can’t enjoy or be interested in anything. You may not enjoy being with your baby
- Loss of interest in sex: there are several reasons why you lose interest in sex after having a baby. It may be painful or you may be too tired. PND can take away any desire.
- Lack of motivation to do anything.
- Often feeling tearful.
- Anxiety: Most new mothers worry about their babies’ health. If you have PND, the anxiety can be overwhelming
- Feeling irritable a lot of the time (often with your partner, baby or other children).
- Feelings of guilt, rejection, or inadequacy.
- Poor concentration (like forgetting or losing things) or being unable to make a decision about things.
- Feeling unable to cope with anything.
- Social withdrawal: You may not want to see friends and family. You might find it hard to go to postnatal support groups.
What Causes PND?
The exact cause is not clear. However, it is not due to hormone changes experienced after you give birth. Any mother can develop postnatal depression, but women are more prone to develop it just after childbirth. The main cause appears to be stressful events after childbirth such as feelings of isolation, worry, and responsibility about the new baby. You may also be at greater risk of developing postnatal depression if:
- You have had mental health problems in the past (including depression, previous postnatal depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia).
- You have suffered with depression during your pregnancy.
- There is a history of postnatal depression in your family
- You have experienced marital or relationship problems.
- You have no close friends or family around you.
- You have money troubles.
- You have had physical health problems following the birth (such as anaemia or incontinence).
However, in many cases, there is no apparent cause.
How Talking to Siobhan Can Help
Siobhan can offer mothers (or fathers) the opportunity to explore the difficulties of becoming parents and coping with post-natal depression. By understanding the feelings you are experiencing and challenging your thinking you can start to gain some control and enjoy being a parent!