Having a new baby can be a joyous occasion. However, experts believe that about 10 – 15% of women experience some kind of depression after giving birth. This can often be as simple as a mother just not feeling herself. If this continues, the initial feelings can become more pervasive, and without interventions or treatment, can result in Post Natal Depression (PND).
The effects of PND can be distressing, debilitating and very real. Sadly, many women go undiagnosed and can suffer for long periods without major treatment and support. PND is rarely discussed openly, so it is common for women to conceal their feelings from family and friends.
- feeling low or weepy
- loss of interest or pleasure in your relationships or surroundings
- feeling irritable with your partner or baby
- having difficulty in concentrating and making decisions
- feeling exhausted but sleep is disturbed
- loss of confidence and self-esteem
- not eating properly – too much/too little
- becoming reclusive
- distressing feelings of worthlessness and guilt
- having disturbing thoughts about self-harm
- having thoughts about death
Since we don’t generally talk about PND, we often don’t know what to do or what to say if we know someone who is suffering from it. In many cases it can seem easier to dismiss the topic rather than address a taboo – but PND can be serious, and ignoring it increases the feelings of inadequacy and ultimately the perception of not being able to cope.
What can you do?
It is important for women suffering from PND to understand that they are not alone and help is available to them in many different ways. If you are depressed it is important to share your feelings with someone you trust. Talk to your health visitor or GP. Unfortunately depression has a stigma attached to it and often people find it hard to talk to a medical professional. If this is the case you might consider contacting a telephone helpline, internet forum, self-help group or perhaps seek counselling.
It is also recommended that you try to take some exercise each day. Exercise can have a positive effect on your mood and sense of well-being. Get off the bus one stop earlier or park at the far end of a car park to get the extra moments of activity into your day. Maintain a healthy diet, as eating badly or skipping meals can you feel tired and irritable. Lastly, try to seek and accept support from your partner, family and friends as this can make things a little easier for you.
Where can you seek help?
The Association for Post-Natal Illness is based in London and provides a telephone helpline (020 7386 0868) managed by volunteers who have experienced PND.
PANDAS offers support through a help line (0843 2898401) or through email. This is also managed by volunteers who have suffered PND.
Sheffield Light is a local PND support charity which is run by volunteers. It provides peer to peer support, buddying, telephone and email support.
This article on Post-natal Depression was written for Little Sheffield, a parenting advice group.