When the arrival of a baby is regarded as a joyous and life affirming time, for a large group of people who feel anxious, upset and hopeless the way you are ‘supposed’ to feel only makes someone suffering from postnatal depression feel more isolated and vulnerable. It’s why it’s such an important topic to discuss.
To get a better understanding of postnatal depression and how it affects both men and women, we talk to Abi Wood, Head of Campaigns & Communications at NCT.
What is postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression is the most common perinatal mental health disorder which is common within 6 weeks to a year following the birth of your baby. It is also possible to experience prenatal depression which occurs during pregnancy.
Like other forms of depression, if can be classified as mild, moderate or severe and the feelings may be overcome within a few months, however, 30% will still experience symptoms of depression beyond a year.
It’s very common that women feel more tearful, a bit down or anxious within the first two weeks after giving birth. This is known as the ‘baby blues’ and will experience similar symptoms to postnatal depression. The symptoms are usually a cause of a change in hormones, the experience of birthing and of course the responsibility of having a child. If these symptoms do not subside within 14 days, this could be a sign of postnatal depression.
Women talk out and about their experience of postnatal depression
What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?
Every experience is different; however, common symptoms of postnatal depression in women include:
- Feeling down and teary
- Feeling worthless
- Inability to feel happiness
- Sleep problems
- Difficulty in leaving the house
- Problems bonding with your baby
- Low sex drive
- Suicidal thoughts
As for men, they may also feel:
- Appear more aggressive
- Isolation from friends or family
- Suicidal thoughts
- Suffer headaches or stomach problems
There are a couple of risk factors as well if you’re concerned, you’re likely to experience postnatal depression.
If you have a previous history of mental health problems, a family history of postnatal depression, had a traumatic birth experience, live in a bad or violent social or economic situation and/or have poor social support, it’s advisable to mindful of postnatal depression.
For men, the risk factors include financial pressures, a history of depression and anxiety, not being in a relationship with the child’s mother, sleeping or crying issues with the baby, drug abuse of dependence and even age, with more reports that men under 25 are more likely to suffer postnatal depression.
If you find yourself experiencing one or more of the symptoms associated with postnatal depression, it’s important to seek help and advice.
Help that’s available for postnatal depression
If you find that you’re experiencing one or more symptoms of postnatal depression its important that you speak to your health visitor, midwife of GP for advice and support. They can signpost you to services to ensure that you are in the best hands possible to help you feel better. Mind also have a number of resources and signpost you to a number of resources and community groups that offer support and guidance.
There are a range of services and options available when it comes to treatment and it’ll be an open dialogue as to the course of treatment you take. Therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and counselling are available to you as is anti-depression medication. There are a number of self-care tips such as a change in diet, exercise and getting out and about meeting new social groups, that can have wonderous benefits.
Self-care tips for when you’ve just had your baby
Following the birth of your baby, the following self-care tips can be helpful to your mental wellbeing and your baby’s development:
1. Build a support network and make time to meet with friends and other mums to chat
The babies will grow up together and likely become friends and will give them someone to play with while you enjoy some time with your friends too.
2. Accept offers of help from friends and family & ask for help if you need it
Some days are bound to be more challenging than others, if you’re struggling, let your friends and family know.
3. Make time for exercise
Whatever you loved doing before the baby arrived, make sure you give yourself time to do it now. Exercise has wonderous benefits on mood and will help you to release stress and anxiety.
4. Try to eat healthily and regularly and cut back on caffeine and alcohol.
Though we know what its like, when you only get 5 minutes to yourself sometimes its easy to grab a sugar fuelled snack. When your partner is home with you, or you have friends or family over to help, use that time to make heathier meals and snacks in bulk for those days you just can’t stop.
5. Get showered and dressed, even if you have no plans for the day.
Focus on the tasks at hand and trying breathing techniques and exercises when possible.
7. Sign up to baby classes
Baby classes will not only help the baby’s development but can help you to bond.
We appreciate that parenthood may be a different experience to the one you imagined but there are tools and resources available to you, whatever you may be going through. We hope this piece has been useful and insightful to highlight the symptoms you may experience and just a taste of the support available. Also, importantly, highlight that it is just as common for men to experience postnatal depression as it is for women so looking out for one another and supporting each other is important.
We owe a heartfelt thanks the NCT for working with us on this piece in raising awareness on such an important topic.