Postnatal Depression

Pregnancy and birth of a baby brings many changes in a woman’s life, not only physical but emotional and social. Most women feel that after having the baby, they should be feeling ecstatic.

This is not always the case as pregnancy can be long and tiring; birth, vaginal or caesarean, exhausting; recovering from the birth and then the immense changes being at home with a baby.

Each woman’s experience of postnatal depression is unique and there are usually differing combinations of factors responsible.

Whatever the factors, it can be debilitating and puzzling. Postnatal depression can affect any woman, either directly after birth, or up to 24 months postpartum.

How common is it?
It is common yet most do not like to speak about it. It is hard to differentiate symptoms from normal changes so women do not always seek help early. It is better to speak with your GP or obstetrician with any concerns so that measures are taken to facilitate early treatment.

What causes it?
Some contributing factors are having a genetic connection, history of menstrual anxiety, difficult pregnancy, deficiencies in diet, rapid hormonal changes, difficult delivery and previous history of anxiety or depression.

Other factors may be unrealistic expectations of motherhood, traumatic childhood, unresolved grief or loss, lack of family support, difficult family relationships, financial hardships, and stressful life events. The list is long. Most health practitioners agree that it is a combination of Social, Psychological and Biological factors that contribute to postnatal depression.

Will I recognize I am experiencing this form of depression?
Sometimes it is the partner or family who recognises the symptoms. Sometimes it is the new mother herself who acknowledges that life is not as expected.

The following are some of the wide and varied symptoms new mothers can experience:

  • Memory difficulty
  • Loss of confidence
  • Negative thoughts
  • Crying
  • Appetite loss
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Unable to cope
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loss of concentration
  • Irritability

Recovering from postnatal depression?
You will recover. It is important to take the time to recover and to look after yourself. You may feel you are not recovering quickly enough but keep going, as it will pass.

As postnatal depression is caused by a combination of factors, so too will be the strategies to overcome it.

Eliminate any physical factors that may be contributing and consider your emotional and psychological health, and social wellbeing.

Confide in your GP or specialist who will support you through this period.

More specific information is available at Panda, (Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc.) www.panda.org.au