A nurse once told me “It is normal to want to throw your baby out the window, it is not normal to do it“.
Having a baby is an exciting time. You’ve welcomed a new little person into the world and whether you are new parents or are adding another one to your family, this time can also be challenging and scary. You’re taking on a new role and it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, even a little worried. But if the general signs of “baby blues” are not subsiding, or if you are noticing any of the below symptoms are unrelenting, you may be experiencing Postnatal Depression (PND).
PND is depression that one can experience within 12 months of having a baby, usually during the first few weeks or months. It can start slowly or suddenly, and can range from very mild to severe and lingering. For most women, it passes quickly, but others will need professional help. Around one in seven to ten mothers will develop PND.
Women are at an increased risk of depression during pregnancy. The causes of depression at this time can be complex and are often the result of a combination of factors. In the days immediately following birth, many women experience the ‘baby blues’ which is a common condition related to hormonal changes, affecting up to 80 per cent of women.
The ‘baby blues’, or general stress adjusting to pregnancy and/or a new baby, are common experiences, but are different from depression. Depression is longer lasting and can affect not only the mother, but her relationship with her baby, the child’s development, the mother’s relationship with her partner and with other members of the family.
Some telltale signs of PND include (but are not limited to):
- An overwhelming sense of exhaustion
- Feeling unable to cope
- Uncharacteristically teary
- Uncharacteristically irrational
- Feeling of anxiety or dread
- The inability to enjoy things to its fullest
The exact causes of postnatal depression are still not known. Some of the obvious contributing factors might include overwhelming physical changes, hormones, exhaustion, dealing with the constant demands of a new baby, a different dynamic in relationship with partner and the loss of independence. Then there is social isolation, recovery from birth, the highs and lows of learning to breastfeed and adapting to living on one wage. Just reading this paragraph would make anyone start to feel a bit down.
Partners, family and friends can all have an important role in a woman’s recovery from PND. Having a baby and PND both place great stress on relationships. A woman with postnatal depression may withdraw from everyone, including her baby and partner.
Talking about your feelings, particularly with other women in support groups or to a professional counsellor, can be helpful. In more severe cases, anti-depressants and other medications might be used to bring about a change in mood. It’s important to remember that PND is a temporary condition that will improve with time.
If you, or someone you know, are experiencing feelings of depression or postnatal depression you can contact beyondblue for support, advice and an action plan. You can always talk to your GP or a family psychologist, contact PANDA or www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au.
We also encourage all new mums and dads who might need support to do a short mental health checklist test. Mums can take this mental health stress test (Mums, Click HERE) and dads can take this mental health stress test (Dads, Click HERE).
Alternatively, you can click on links below:
If you become concerned about any symptoms please seek immediate medical attention – we have some hotlines and suggested websites for further information and advice – CLICK HERE.