Written by Jana Angeles
Trigger warning: The following article contains content that may cause distress for victims of domestic violence or child abuse.
Postnatal depression (PND) can affect anyone, but some people are at high risk of getting it. Certain physical, emotional and environmental factors can contribute to PND. Unfortunately, not all of us were lucky enough to grow in a stable and nurturing environment. If you are planning on having a baby sometime soon but are fearful of getting PND, remember it could happen to anyone and you might even beat the odds!
The following risk factors can lead to PND:
Traumatic birth or pregnancy
Everybody’s pregnancy journey is different, some go as planned, others don’t. If you unexpectedly undergo a C-section or had your first baby be kept in NICU, it can be a frightening experience to give birth or go through pregnancy again. We understand it may be a daunting process, but once you’ve experienced a traumatic birth or pregnancy, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not having another baby again (even though you wanted to in the beginning!). If you are still traumatised from a previous birth or pregnancy, speak to your local GP and see if you can do some sessions with a psychologist to help you ease your way through the next pregnancy or birth.
Domestic violence, sexual or other abuse
According to Our Watch’s facts and figures, on average, at least one woman a week is killed by their partner or ex-partner and one in three women have experienced some form of physical violence since the age of 15. Domestic violence or any form of abuse can be triggering for women and it’s no surprise that these victims are more prone to PND. Some may never recover from the trauma that comes with domestic violence or abuse. With ongoing support, victims can still live a normal life with therapy and appropriate medical treatment.
You may have experienced a death of a family member or had a troubling relationship with your parents as a child. From time to time, triggering memories from your childhood may cause emotional trauma later on in adulthood; as a result, some suffer from PND. Pregnancy is a journey where you’ll experience all kinds of emotion, good and bad. It’s advised to go through therapy or seek support from family and friends, especially when the triggers happen frequently.
Have you experienced a major change in life? Job redundancy? Divorce? Mortgage you can’t afford? Stress can trigger PND in individuals, especially for those experiencing major events that dramatically alter their life. It’s normal to feel a bit stressed during the pregnancy in terms of the baby’s health or what you should be eating. However, too much stress can lead to feelings of anxiety, fear and depression. If you find yourself stressed to the point where you can’t cope, talk with your local GP and schedule in some therapy sessions. Talking about these major changes can help with the transition and make you feel settled with everything.
Overall, just because you’ve experienced the above does not necessarily mean you’ll suffer from PND. Each individual is different and a perfectly healthy and mentally-stable adult can still be at risk of PND. Just remember you are not alone during the term of pregnancy and birth of your child. Speak to your local GP, communicate with your family and friends and do your best to find effective ways in coping with previous trauma.
If you feel depressed, anxious or showing any signs of PND, please call the PANDA hotline on 1300 726 306 (10am-5pm AEST Monday – Friday) for further support and help. For after-hours assistance, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.