Written by Karli Steenkamp
Expecting a baby is a time in a person’s life where many mixed emotions emerge. It is one thing to carry a baby for nine months and then suddenly have a little bundle of joy to look after and care for. Adjusting to motherhood and trying to lead a fairly normal life can be hard. After birth, a woman’s hormones are raging and emotions are high. It is normal to have ‘baby blues’ after you had a baby.
Women are emotional and feel out of control. These feelings usually last only a few days. However, if you feel like this for longer than two weeks, you might have Post Natal Depression (PND), which affects one in seven women in Australia. It is important to identify the onset of PND early because if undetected, it can lead to major depression later in life or it can get worse when you have your next baby.
How do I know if I have Post Natal Depression?
Women feel different emotions after giving birth. It is important to identify these feelings and distinguish between ‘baby blues’ and PND.
The symptoms of PND can be categorised in two ways:
- Your thoughts and feelings.
- You might feel inadequate and overwhelmed in your new parenting role.
- You can feel depressed or irritable.
- Feelings of fear or anxiousness that something bad could happen to you, your partner or baby.
- Struggling to bond with your baby.
- Thinking the worst or having negative thoughts of harming yourself or others. 2. Your thoughts and feelings.
- You don’t do or enjoy the things you used to do before you had your baby.
- Losing your appetite or over-eating.
- All you want to do is sleep (out of the ordinary) or Insomnia.
- Obsessive behaviours can also occur.
Not all these symptoms need to be present for you to have PND. If any feelings or behaviours continue for more than two weeks, then it is necessary to seek help.
What causes PND?
It is difficult to pinpoint a direct reason why people get PND, however, there are a few things that have been linked to PND. If there is family history of depression or you already had depression before you fell pregnant, then you are more prone to PND. A difficult pregnancy or traumatic birth can also have an effect. An unstable relationship or a lack of support can contribute to these symptoms.
It is completely normal to feel overwhelmed with your role as a parent. Some people try and hide the fact that they are not coping because they feel guilty. It is perfectly okay to admit that you are not okay. Parenting can be hard and people need all the help they can get. If you feel that you might have PND, consult your GP or speak to your midwife or gynaecologist.
PND is easily treatable. Medicine is a common treatment in which an anti-depressant is usually given. Therapy may also work or join a support group. Get out, be active and take care of yourself. A happy mummy is a happy baby. Ask for help and support from family and friends. There is no reason to go through this on your own.
PND affects many women; it is nothing to be ashamed of. Get the help you need and know that there are many people to support you in your new role as parent. You can do the Edinburgh Depression Scale online to see if you might have PND or search for support groups of people going through the exact same thing. There is always someone to help.
Important numbers to keep on hand:
Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA) 1300 726 306
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Lifeline 13 11 14
- Government of Western Australia, Department of Health
- Health Direct
- Beyond Blue