Being pregnant can bring about all sorts of emotions and they will vary from person to person. You might be thrilled with the prospect of being a parent but, alternatively, it may fill you with dread. The same can occur when the baby is born. ‘Oh congratulations, aren’t you lucky!’ can be heard from family and friends, whereas actually inside you feel the total opposite.
Postnatal or Perinatal Depression (PND) is common in women and men. 1 in 10 of parents/expectant parents are diagnosed with PND within a year of the baby’s birth. However, with support, time and meeting your own self-care needs, and gaining an understanding of why you feel how you feel, you can start slowly to put one foot in front of the other again.
Is it the “Baby Blues” or PND?
Most new mums experience the Baby Blues. They can be triggered by physical changes, emotional reasons or both. After birth hormone levels drop, milk starts coming in and you will very likely feel emotionally, mentally and physically exhausted. This can lead to you feeling tearful, low and anxious. You may also be easily upset but normally within two weeks these symptoms have cleared and you will feel ready to start your journey on adapting to life with a new little one.
It is really important to get as much rest as you can, to accept help and to look after your own needs in order to give your baby what they need. This can help reduce the risks of the Baby Blues developing into PND.
Signs and symptoms of PND
If, after these first two weeks, you are experiencing any of the following, you may well have PND and it is time to get support.
- Persistent feeling of sadness and low mood.
- Lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in your surroundings and those around you.
- Lack of energy and/or feeling tired all the time.
- Difficulty sleeping.
- Difficulty in meeting your own needs and those of your child.
- Feeling guilty for how you are feeling.
- You may feel that you do not love your baby.
- You may not feel close to your baby.
- You may find it difficult to know what your baby needs.
- You may have feelings of resentment towards your baby and your partner.
- You may feel you are missing out on Motherhood.
- You may find you are withdrawing socially.
- Problems concentrating and making decisions.
- Frightening and Intrusive thoughts.
- Thinking you are not a good mother/partner.
- Thinking your baby doesn’t love you.
- Loss of confidence.
- Feeling that you are not coping.
- Feeling irritable and angry.
- Changes in appetite.
- No interest in sex.
- Feeling anxious or hopeless.
- Feeling that things will never get better.
- Feeling that your family would be better off without you.
- Thoughts of suicide and self harm. If these feelings are being experienced please seek help immediately.
Don’t delay seeking help and support
Don’t worry what others will think and don’t feel ashamed to admit that you are not enjoying parenthood. PND is a Mental Health illness and, just like physical illness, you will sometimes need support beyond what you, yourself, can do.
Causes of PND
There are many causes for PND and you might have experienced one or more of these:
- A history of mental health problems in or out of pregnancy.
- Lack of a support network.
- Difficult relationship with your partner.
- A stressful life event such as:
- Struggles with getting pregnant.
- Financial worries.
- Housing issues.
- Physical or Psychological Trauma.
- A refugee or asylum seeker.
- Underactive thyroid or low levels of vitamin B12.
What are some of the things you can do?
- Seek help; practical as well as emotional.
- Let your family know how you are feeling.
- Talk to your GP/Midwife/Health Visitor.
- Try to do less. Pull back on things you don’t need to do (the housework can wait!)
- Rest when you can, even if you can’t sleep:
- Be kind to yourself. Identify things that bring some enjoyment.
- Have a bath with some of your favourite smellies!
- Listen to some relaxing music.
- Make friends with other parents. (this can be difficult to do if you are feeling very low but try not to withdraw totally from others.)
- Attend antenatal classes
- Go for a walk, do a low level exercise.
- Get out in nature. This will also do your baby good!
- Eat well.
- If you don’t fancy big meals then eat little and often
- Seek some therapy.
- Talking therapies can be really beneficial and you can go through the GP or self-refer.
- Contact organisations or charities that support parents with PND. Just talking to someone can help. Some organisations are listed below.
Organisations who can help with PND
Telephone helpline: 0808 1961 776
Association of Postnatal Illness
Take a look at this well-being plan from Tommy’s: https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/calculators-tools-resources/wellbeing-plan/pregnancy-and-post-birth-wellbeing-plan
For more information, there is a great help page on the Royal College of Psychiatrists website: