After Noo was born and ended up in the NICU for 4 weeks after birth with Hirschsprung’s Disease, I really struggled with Postnatal Depression. Support from family, friends and our medical doctor, I was able to work through those issues. I also struggled with PND after the birth’s of the younger three children, but, because I was already on antidepressants and The Hubby took 2 weeks off work after each birth, I didn’t feel as helpless as I had after the birth of my first child.
Many people call postnatal, or postpartum depression, the Baby Blues, but it can be more than a surge a hormones that can have lasting and occasionally, devastating affects on the mother and her family.
What is Postnatal Depression?
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby.
It’s a common problem, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. It can also affect fathers and partners, although this is less common.
It’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed, as your symptoms could last months or get worse and have a significant impact on you, your baby and your family.
With the right support, which can include self-help strategies and therapy, most women make a full recovery.
What are the signs and symptoms of Postnatal Depression?
The signs and symptoms of PND are different for every mother. Your friends or family may spot the signs before you do, but you may feel:
* sad or low
* unable to enjoy anything
* extremely tired, with no energy
* a sense of guilt
* lacking in appetite
Most mothers have at least one of these feelings, some of the time. It’s normal to have good days and bad days. But if you’re feeling these symptoms on most days, or much of the time, and they don’t get better, you could have PND.
What treatments are available for Postnatal Depression?
All women with PND need emotional support from family and friends. Some women find psychological treatments helpful, especially if they have experienced traumatic events in their childhood or more recently.
Antidepressant medication is a successful treatment for many women with PND. It’s worth remembering that women can’t ‘snap out of’ depression, any more than they could ‘snap out of’ diabetes, and there are many misconceptions about antidepressants, how they work and what harm they might cause.
Rather than ‘changing your personality’, this type of medication aims to correct chemical imbalances in the brain thought to be responsible for symptoms of depression and anxiety. Antidepressants are not addictive. Some can be safely taken while breastfeeding and pregnant.
You can seek objective help and advice from your doctor, a pharmacist or a drug information line. Our parenting helplines article has drug information contact numbers.
Living with a woman suffering PND is difficult. Partners too need a lot of support. They often feel confused, lost and helpless. It’s important that partners be included by the health professionals treating women with PND. Partners are much more supportive if they understand what the problem is and what they can do to help.
PND: where to go for help
If a woman doesn’t feel the way she expected to feel after having a baby, it’s very important that she talk to her GP or child and family health nurse.
It could simply be that she’s having trouble adjusting to the changes in lifestyle that occur when a baby is born and to the demands that a new baby makes. But if she’s suffering PND, it’s important that she receive appropriate help as soon as possible.
What causes Postnatal Depression?
The exact cause is not clear. It does not seem to be due to hormone changes after you give birth. Any mother could develop PND, but women are more prone to develop it just after childbirth. The main cause seems to be stressful events after childbirth such as feelings of isolation, worry, and responsibility about the new baby, etc.
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 had previous treatment by a psychiatrist or mental health team.
* You have had depression during your pregnancy.
* Your family tends to suffer from PND.
* You have had marital or relationship problems.
* You have no close friends or family around you.
* You have money troubles.
* You have had physical health problems during pregnancy or following the birth, or if the birth was very difficult.
* Your partner is depressed.
* You have had a major life event recently (such as somebody in your family dying, or moving house).
* You did not plan to become pregnant in the first place.
* You were trying for a long time before you became pregnant.
However, in many cases, there is no apparent cause.
Can postnatal depression be prevented?
We don’t know enough about PND to prevent it in the first place. The following suggestions seem sensible and may help to keep you well.
* Don’t try to be ‘superwoman’. Try to do less and make sure that you don’t get over-tired.
* Do make friends with other women who are pregnant or have just had a baby. It may be more difficult to make new friends if you get PND.
* Do find someone you can talk to. If you don’t have a close friend you can turn to, try the National Childbirth Trust or The Pandas Foundation. Their local groups are very supportive both before and after childbirth.
* Do go to antenatal classes. If you have a partner, take them with you. If not take a friend or relative.
* Don’t stop antidepressant medication during pregnancy without advice. Around 7 in 10 women who stop antidepressants in pregnancy relapse if they stop the medication. You need to discuss the risks and benefits of continuing treatment in pregnancy and breastfeeding.
* Do keep in touch with your GP and your health visitor if you have had depression before. Any signs of depression in pregnancy or PND can be recognised early.
* Do make sure that you have treatment for depression in pregnancy. This may be a talking therapy or medication.
* Do accept offers of help from friends and family.
Myths about postnatal depression
Postnatal depression is often misunderstood and there are many myths surrounding it. These include:
* Postnatal depression is less severe than other types of depression. In fact, it’s as serious as other types of depression.
* Postnatal depression is entirely caused by hormonal changes. It’s actually caused by many different factors.
* Postnatal depression will soon pass. Unlike the “baby blues”, postnatal depression can persist for months if left untreated. In a minority of cases, it can become a long-term problem.
* Postnatal depression only affects women. Research has actually found that up to 1 in 25 new fathers become depressed after having a baby.
If you, or someone you know, suffers from depression, or any other mental health issues, and needs help, please contact the South African Depression and Anxiety Group. SADAG is Africa’s largest mental health support and advocacy group. On this website you will find comprehensive mental health information and resources to help you, a family member or loved one.
Should you wish to share your story, please feel free to contact me by clicking on the green email icon on the top right side of the blog.