Baby Blues or Post Natal Depression?
A relatively high percentage (80%) of mothers go through the baby blues, often about three or four days after the birth. You might feel very anxious about small things or mildly depressed, or just keep bursting into tears for no apparent reason. You might even have bouts of feeling annoyed or frustrated.
Stop for a moment.... think about what you have just been through ... whether it was enjoyable or terrible, you will have had hormone changes, tiredness, discomfort from sore stitches or breasts, a come down after all the excitement, or even in some cases maybe a long, painful or uncomfortable and often frightening experience.
Whatever the cause, you will usually find it only lasts a few days. Cry if you feel like it and try to sleep if you can. The best help your family can give is probably just to listen, give you a reassuring hug and look after the baby while you get some rest. Other mothers will have experienced this too. Talk to them!
If these feelings do not go away, it may be that you are simply not giving yourself the attention you deserve. Take time out to treat yourself. Have a long, lazy bath, eat your favourite food or visit a friend.
A percentage of mothers slide into a depression that may be quite deep and less easy to come out of. They are taken over by a feeling of hopelessness. They may feel angry, but more often feel too exhausted to be angry or even to cope with the simplest tasks.
If you feel like this (or answer yes to 3 or more of the questions at the top of the page) it is advisable to get get help. The information provided below will help you to understand more about what you are going through.
Always remember to contact your health visitor or GP and explain how you are feeling. Perhaps you might want to talk to a family member or friend first and they might get in touch with the GP or health visitor after talking to you about it. You can also contact an organisation such as the ones listed on the NHS website. Postnatal depression is not something to be ashamed about, it can occur in any woman after any birth. Talk to somebody if you suspect that you currently going through it.
What is Post Natal Depression?
There are a wide number of different studies showing widely varying percentages of how many mothers (and fathers) experience Post Natal Depression. For the purpose of this text and based on my own experience, I assume the number ranges between 10% and 25%.
In a way, statistics don't matter, if you are feeling this way then do something about it. It is irrelevant whether you fall in one group of statistics or another. Your aim is to get better and enjoy your new baby.
Symptoms can range from lethargy and feeling tearful, to debilitating mood swings and suicidal thoughts that interfere with the parents ability to bond with the new baby, or deal with the most simple daily tasks. Here is a list of some more typical symptoms
Mum's talk about experiencing at least some of these
Although most commonly attributed to women, recent NHS studies point out the seriousness of men becoming depressed after the birth of a new baby.
- Feeling overwhelmed, unable to cope and tearful
about the smallest things for no apparent reason
- Feeling regularly snappy and irritable
(which is out of character)
- Not feeling close to the baby
- Incredible tiredness
and lack of energy
- Feeling alone, with a sense of having nobody to turn to
- Experiencing sleeping problems - unable to get to sleep or waking up very early and not being able to get back to sleep
- Issues with eating (can't eat at all, or overeating)
- Feelings of being emotionally disconnected from or even rejected by your baby
- Uncontrollable feelings of being overly anxious and over protective of your baby
- Very low motivation and
and not wanting to do anything at all
- An almost permanent feeling of anxiety which often leads to panic attacks (which occur unpredictably and get worse over time)
- Finding it extremely difficult to concentrate or focus on very much, even something as simple as a conversation
- Pretending to yourself and others that you are' t experiencing these feelings - almost as if you are ashamed that you have failed in some way
- Strange, frightening thoughts or visions popping into your head about harming yourself or the baby or other awful things happening
- Experiencing overwhelming feelings of loneliness or isolation. Even in some cases feeling rejected by friends, family, your partner and your baby or children
- Losing interest in enjoyable things like sex or previous hobbies and interests
- Experiencing overwhelming feelings of guilt, particularly about how bad a mother you are
- Physical aches and pains, such as headaches, stomach pains or blurred vision and worrying that it is something terminal or serious
Dad's talk about experiencing
- Feeling a huge weight of responsibility
now that the baby is born
- Feelings of inadequacy in the role of support for your partner
- Anxiety around the birth and worry about your ability to be a good parent
(for example, how you are going to provide for the baby financially)
- Not experiencing strong feelings for the baby
(in the way that mum does)
- Feeling very stressful around the mother, feeling a loss of closeness with mother and baby, almost like you have dropped down in the attention rankings.
What causes Post Natal Depression?
As I mentioned earlier having a baby is a major change in any parent's life, and most parents are never fully prepared for the effect on life style and relationship. Some of the above feelings are not surprising when one considers what a dramatic change a new baby has on modern parents' lives. Sleep routines are affected, social lives are affected, hormonal changes occur, some of the things you had planned to do as new parents just don't seem to be working in the way you planned.
Simply put, just experiencing prolonged tiredness and any related or additional anxiety is enough to start the brain becoming very black and white and emotionally charged and you will be more likely to place pessimistic meanings on people, thoughts, conversations and situations. This, combined with feelings of guilt can quite quickly spiral into depression. For more about this, have a read of this very useful web site www.lift-depression.com- it explains in very simple terms how one can get caught up in a cycle of depression through a combination of anxiety, lack of sleep and unmet basic needs. It also provides some useful coping mechanisms.
I am not sure anyone can absolutely give you a clear reason for why some parents experience post natal depression. What I would say is that it is definitely not an indicator of weakness, or that you are bad parents or anything of that nature. I have worked with people from many varied walks of life and Post Natal Depression doesn't seem to discriminate whether you are a high flying business woman or a stay at home mum.
The main contributing reasons I have noted seem to be stressful events after childbirth such as feelings of isolation, worry, and responsibility about the new baby, etc. In addition, you are at greater risk of developing postnatal depression if you have any of the following:
- Mental health problems in the past (usually depression or a previous postnatal depression).
- Depression during the pregnancy.
- Marital or relationship problems.
- No close friends or family around you.
- Financial troubles ort any other worries about security for you and your family
- Physical health problems following the birth (such as anaemia, urinary incontinence, etc)
- Missing basic needs, or not getting them met properly
- I have also found it to be caused from experiencing a birth which was traumatic, very painful or one in which the mother felt very out of control.
In many cases, there is no apparent cause. The normal change in hormones after the birth is not thought to be a cause.
How is postnatal depression diagnosed?
The diagnosis is usually made by a doctor based on what you, and those who know you, tell him or her. You may not recognised that you are depressed. However, your partner or close family member will probably have noticed that you are different, and may not understand why. A friend or family member may suggest that you see a doctor.
Sometimes your doctor may do a blood test to make sure that there is not a physical reason for the symptoms such as an under active thyroid or anaemia.
The NHS mention that in one study, only 1 in 4 women with postnatal depression sought any help. Therefore, a short questionnaire has been designed to help diagnose postnatal depression. This is called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and has 10 simple questions. Your doctor or health visitor may ask you to fill it in if they suspect that you have postnatal depression.
My advice is, if you are in doubt, ask your doctor.
What can you do about Post Natal Depression?
A large number of people will simply get better on your own. The NHS says that If you do nothing about the depression, or do not even know that you are depressed, you are likely to get better anyway in 3-6 months (like other types of depression). However, about 1 in 4 affected mothers are still depressed on the child's first birthday. There are a number of reasons to get help.
- To help yourself get better quickly. You are not required to feel like this, and you deserve to enjoy your baby. It is not a sign of weakness to admit that you are depressed
(I certainly know this from the number of very capable mothers I have helped privately)
- To help your partner or family. If you are depressed, it can cause problems in your relationships, your job, and life in general.
- To help your child (or children). If you are depressed, your relationship with your baby may not be as good as it could be. You may not give as much attention to your baby as you would like to. As a result, your baby's development may not be as quick as it might be. There is some recent research (broadcast on the BBC) that talks about the detrimental impact that post natal depression can have on bonding with the baby and the baby's ongoing development. This is a two way thing, if you are happier, baby is more likely to be, and visa versa
Many women are able to 'hide' your postnatal depression. You care for their baby perfectly well, and appear 'fine' to those around you. However, you might be suffering the condition as an internal misery. Please seek help if you are like this.
Support and advice
Understanding and support from family and friends can help you to recover. It is often best to talk to close friends and family to explain how you feel rather than bottling up your feelings. Support and help from a health visitor can also help. Tell your health visitor if you feel depressed as they may be able to talk things through with you. Many others have been through this themselves. It is important not to underestimate the power of sharing what you are going through with somebody else.
Independent advice about any social problems may be available and of help (money issues, child care, loneliness, relationships, etc). Ask your health visitor about what is available in your area. Also, ask about which support or self-help groups are available. You may be surprised at how many women feel the same way as you. Self-help groups are good at providing encouragement and support, as well as giving advice on how best to cope.
Some anti-depressants can help with Post Natal Depression - talk to your GP about them.
In many cases, the assistance of a good therapist can assist in teaching you to learn ways of coping with your post natal depression or indeed helping you to deal with any stress or anxiety that you may be experiencing as a result of your loss. This is very relevant if you find yourself dwelling on the birth a lot (if it was particularly traumatic for you). There are some effective methods to help you. I am always happy to chat to you on the phone about whether I can help you or not, my number is shown below.
Regular exercise such as jogging, swimming, gym sessions, etc, is thought to help ease symptoms (if you are able to do some exercise).
Some useful tips for dealing with Post Natal Depression
- Don't bottle things up and 'go it alone'. Tell people who are close to you how you feel. It is not weak to cry or admit that you are struggling.
- Remember, most people with depression recover through your own natural abilities
- Care for yourself through continuing your nutritious and regular eating habits
- Get extra rest whenever you can
- Seek assistance from your Health Visitor
- It is always important to check that your basic needs are being met appropriately
- Listen to a relaxing self-hypnosis
cd. This one has been found by my clients to be particularly useful for de-stressing and releasing unhelpful thoughts.
A pleasant audio track to help the listener unwind at the end of the day. It helps you release any worries or stresses and feel positive about upcoming concerns.
Professionally recorded, and using the latest techniques, this product uses double induction to deepen the level of the trance.
Download this now for £8.97 and in 10 minutes you could be kicking your shoes off and enjoying a wonderful relaxing mental massage!
Order the CD version of this product for just £11.99
- Avoid drinking alcohol. It is tempting to some people with depression as the immediate effect may seem to relieve the symptoms. However, drinking heavily is likely to make your situation worse in the long run.
- I highly recommend that you read this web site www.lift-depression.com to find out some very useful ways understanding and dealing with depression
- In many cases, the assistance of a good therapist can assist in teaching you to learn ways of coping with your post natal depression or indeed helping you to deal with any stress or anxiety that you may be experiencing as a result of your loss. This is very relevant if you find yourself dwelling on the birth a lot (if it was particularly traumatic for you). There are some effective methods to help you. I am always happy to chat to you on the phone about whether I can help you or not, my number is shown below
- Please note: Before undertaking any therapy, it is always a good idea to check with your doctor if you are on any medication for chronic pain, anxiety or depression