Postnatal Depression (PND)
Last week (4 - 10 May) was UK Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week.
PND is known to affect up to one in ten women during the first year after their baby has been born. The birth of a child is generally a trigger, although research has yet to conclude as to any definite ‘causes’ of PND.
It is different from what is sometimes referred to as 'the baby blues' (personally I hate this term). Having a baby of course puts enormous pressure on the body both emotionally and physically, during pregnancy and afterwards in labour. It should not come as a surprise that this can leave some new mothers feeling overly teary, emotional and even irritable. Both the body and mind need time to adjust. Throughout pregnancy, women are also bombarded with an increase in hormones that can drastically affect mood. Post-birth many mothers also struggle with sleep and exhaustion. All these factors can certainly contribute to postnatal depression.
However there are important distinctions to be made. Mothers with postnatal depression often feel like they have no maternal connection to their new child, and don’t experience any feelings either positive or negative, towards their baby.
Whilst Postnatal Depression effects Mum's in different ways, there are some commonalities:
Loneliness Darkness Futility - feeling that the world doesn't make sense Lack of connection - with the baby and others in the 'outside' world Feeling unable to cope Feeling a failure Physical pain and aches
All of the above naturally lead to massive anxieties, fears and even guilt:
Why am I not feeling the way a new Mum is 'supposed' to feel? What if I never love my baby? What if I'm being judged by others for being a 'bad Mum'? What if I'm not doing enough/not doing this right?
PND sufferers often end up suffering in silence because they feel shame at asking for the help they need. But, if left untreated, PND can continue for months or even become a much longer term problem. Therefore it's really important to seek advice from a professional (GP, Counsellor) as soon as possible as well as try and explain the situation to a loved one in order to get the right support.
The more we can talk openly and honestly about it, the more accepted and de-stigmatised PND can become.
Association for Post Natal Illness - 0207 386 086 Samaritans 24-hour helpline - 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org