Postnatal depression (PND), also known as postpartum depression, is a mental health condition that affects a high number of parents in the first year of their child’s life. It is often wrongly confused with baby blues, which shouldn’t last longer than 2 weeks after birth. Whilst PND can affect both mother and father, baby blues is only experienced by the mother. This happens when the body is going through a number of hormonal and chemical changes after birth, in order to return to normal.
Below is a list of some of the main symptoms of PND. They are not an exhaustive list, as everyone experiences mental health difficulties in their own personal ways. However, they are common enough that most people with PND will find that most, if not all, relate to them.
Difficulty bonding with your baby;
A feeling of helplessness, like you can’t cope;
Feeling constantly exhausted but being unable to sleep when you have the opportunity;
Loss of interest in the world around you – feeling apathetic and like you can’t be bothered;
Feeling inadequate and unable to look after your child;
Experiencing guilt and hopelessness, and believing everything is your fault;
The need to comfort eat (increased appetite) or just not wanting to eat at all;
Feeling unable to concentrate properly or make decisions
The effect on day to day life
For some people, these symptoms and thoughts can come and go. For those, it might mean that they are simply battling the stresses of a new baby coupled with exhaustion, rather than experiencing PND. These symptoms can get so intense that they really hamper your day to day life. You might find you are unable to leave the house, or have to keep canceling plans. Maybe you are going through a period where you don’t want to be left alone with your baby, either because you are scared you’ll do something wrong or because you can’t face being around them.
Ignoring these symptoms can make them worse. They can build up inside you until you are ready to explode, and then you’ll either collapse inside yourself or take it out on everyone around you. These are things you obviously don’t want to happen! You need to accept it for what it is, and learn to understand what is happening. Just think of it as an illness that can be cured with a bit of TLC.
Asking for help
Asking for help is always the hardest step. It means admitting that you can’t cope on your own, and that you need a little guidance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The first step might be turning to someone close to you; your partner maybe, a family member or a close friend. Make sure it’s someone you know will have your back, even if they don’t understand. Then approach a professional…a health visitor, doctor, or counselor. Discuss what you’re going through, and they will be able to advise which method of treatment might work best for you.