Postnatal depression (PND) (also known as perinatal or postpartum depression) has no known causes and can affect both mums and dads, after any pregnancy or multiple pregnancies. Due to the consistently exhausting nature of being a mother, some women can experience symptoms of PND without having PND. So, what do you need to look out for in order to tell the difference?
Postnatal Depression (PND) Diagnosis looks at the persistent patterns of behaviours and feelings and how much these impact a mother’s daily life. Look for consistent patterns of the following:
- Feeling exhausted
- Inability to concentrate
- Impulsive mood swings
- Feelings of depression or on the verge of tears for no reason
- Unreasonable feelings of anxiety surrounding the health and safety of the baby
- Thoughts or behaviours that are obsessive/compulsive in nature
- Panic attacks often feel like heart palpations, difficulty breathing or physically shaking
- Loss of interest in the baby, family or socialising
- Lack of sleep or sleeping constantly
- Partaking in behaviour that is irresponsible or risky which is out of character
- Thoughts of self-harm or thoughts of harming the baby.
According to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) research at home and internationally has discovered that between 15-22% of mum’s expression depression during and/or after pregnancy. While we don’t know why some women experience PND and others don’t, there are some factors that put some woman at risk.
First time mothers
Due to the extreme lifestyle, physical, hormonal and emotional changes that occur when women have their first child, anxiety can occur. The expectation vs reality of motherhood can also impact first time mums, especially if there are complications with the baby such as birth defects or issues such as colic.
The birthing processes
All mothers imagine their birthing stories to happen a particular way whether it’s without drugs, at home or having their partner in the room with them. When the reality is different for reasons beyond their wishes or control however, this can impact the mother’s mental and emotional wellbeing, putting them at risk of PND.
Relationship issues and lack of support can impact mothers in a big way. The birth of a child, no matter how positive the outcome, is a very traumatic experience. Having a partner or family that can support or offer guidance can make all the difference during labour. However, if the mother is in a DV situation or is single, although supported by medical staff, can feel isolated, overwhelmed and lonely.
Issues with pregnancy or birth
Women who go through a complicated pregnancy or traumatic labour are at risk of experiencing PND. Pregnancy related health issues such as pre-eclampsia, fertility issues including IVF attempts and previous pregnancy loss or developmental defects can cause anxiety during and after the pregnancy. Being unable to control the outcome is a scary thought and can lead to feeling helpless and depressed.
There are many effective treatments for PND and which one you choose, will depend on your individual situation. Some of the most effective treatments come in the following forms:
Support groups can help some women with mild symptoms, where they can share their feelings and thoughts with others who have had similar experiences. However, techniques such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) done with a qualified therapist are more helpful as they can identify, rationalise and challenge negative thoughts/beliefs/expectations of motherhood and helps provide strategies to resolve negative feelings associated with the pregnancy or birth.
Unfortunately talking therapies may not work for all women, and in this case, it’s imperative to visit your GP in order to undertake an assessment of your symptoms. Therapy may be offered alongside antidepressant medication.
If you or someone close to you may be going through PND, please don’t suffer in silence- there is always help available. See your GP, call PANDA on 1300 726 306, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or in an emergency triple zero (000).
We also have a team of highly skilled and experienced therapists at Nova Psychology that can support you if needed. Please give us a call if you are struggling.