Often, Postnatal Depression or PND is confused with the ‘baby blues’. The baby blues is a period where you may find yourself quite sad, weepy, tired and emotional in the week after you have given birth, and the blues resolve on their own. Postnatal Depression is much more serious than this.
What Is It?
Postnatal depression is depression suffered by a woman or mother who has recently given birth to a baby. The psychological adjustment that one undergoes, along with being so tired, and hormonal, is thought to contribute to PND. A stressful pregnancy or labour could also contribute to your risk of suffering from PND.
How Many Women Suffer From It?
It is estimated that as many as one in ten women will suffer from postnatal depression – that’s 10% of us. It is also thought that the incidence of PND may be higher, as it often goes unreported for fear of judgement, and not knowing that treatment is available.
What Are The Symptoms?
We usually find that a woman’s partner or family pick up that she is depressed, before she even realizes what is going on. You may feel generally sad, and of a low mood – it may even feel like nothing interests you anymore. You could be extremely exhausted, and not be taking care of yourself due to a loss of appetite and a lack of energy.
You may even feel a sense of guilt of unknown cause. Some moms report wanting to harm their baby as the sign that made them realize something was not quite right. If you’re having most of these symptoms, on most days, it is quite possible that you are suffering from postnatal depression, and I’d advise you to seek professional help. Remember, however, that it is normal to feel these emotions – especially feeling tired – with a newborn baby. It is normal to have some of these feelings, and to remember that there will be good days and some bad days too.
When Does It Happen?
Postnatal depression can start at any time within the first year after giving birth – however, it is most common within the first five weeks after delivering.
What Are My Treatment Options?
You may find it valuable to see a psychologist, particularly one who specializes in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – this helps you to develop your own coping strategies so that you can take control of your mental health.
You can also take antidepressants, however, you will need a prescription from your health care practitioner first. Antidepressants balance the chemicals in your brain and therefore, help to ease depression. Depending on which antidepressant your doctor prescribes, you may need to discontinue breastfeeding. This can be disconcerting – however, it’s best to put your health and mental safety ahead of all else at this time.
Can I Overcome It On My Own?
I’d advise you to always see a doctor and therapist if you are suffering from depression. Over and above the treatment they prescribe for you, it’s important that you take care of yourself, too. Rest is essential, so having a supportive partner will make the world of difference. Eat a healthy diet, and get some exercise to help with the release of endorphins (the happy chemicals). Meet other moms, and go to support groups so that you know you are not on your own in this.
Can I Prevent It?
It is thought that certain factors can make you more ‘at risk’ of developing postnatal depression. These could be things such as previous depression, a stressful pregnancy, PND with a previous birth, or even a lack of support. The best thing you can do is take care of yourself. A loving and supportive partner will make things a lot easier too.
If you think you’re suffering from Postnatal Depression, please don’t hesitate to contact the Postnatal Depression Support Association (PNDSA). SMS ‘help’ to 082 882 0072.