Post Natal Depression Guidance
Becoming a new mother is wonderful. But it can also be a very emotional and difficult time for many women. They may experience feelings of loneliness, anxiety, guilt, inadequacy, exhaustion, hopelessness and a loss of control.
The most important thing to remember for any new mother is that you will get better and this is a temporary illness but you have to seek help.
The sooner you ask for help, the better you will feel. Early detection and speedy treatment are key.
Give yourself time to recover as you would from any other illness.
Talk to your partner or family and be open about your feelings and worries so that they understand what you might need.
Speak with your GP or public health nurse, community based support group or a professional counsellor. You may need suitable medication to help the depression to lift.
Find out what support networks are available in your area such as mother to mother support groups or baby and toddler groups. It helps to talk to mothers in similar situations who can give emotional and practical support.
Help is out there, so use it!
Postnatal depression can occur again if the mother has another baby but that is not the usual experience. But if a mother does anticipate becoming ill after a subsequent birth, they can arrange in advance to have as much support as possible after the baby is born.
Parentline is the only national helpline, that offers support to new mothers suffering with the baby blues or postnatal depression, in confidence and over the phone. This means that a new mother does not have to get organised to leave the comfort of her own home if she needs support. Very often a depressed mother finds it very difficult to get dressed not to mind to leave her own house. Parentline offers a support service in her own home.
According to HSE figures about four out of five women get some form of baby blues and between 10% and 15% go on to develop PND. This is a vast number of new mothers looking for help considering there are approximately 62,000 births in Ireland each year.
Pregnancy and giving birth is a very emotional experience and some deal with it better than others. There can be all sorts of reasons for developing post-natal depression from a history of depression to a traumatic or difficult birth, having a premature or unwell baby or simply the whole change in lifestyle that it brings with the sudden responsibility of a new baby, the constant demands of this little person, sleep deprivation and a certain amount of lost freedom. For some they might feel they are not living up to the media and social media image they had of perfect, glowing mother as they struggle to cope.
The important thing is to ask for help. The sooner you ask, the sooner you will feel better. Any new mother who is having difficulties or experiencing any symptoms of baby blues or post natal depression should seek help early, particularly as PND can last for three months or more and this could be considerably longer if it is not treated.
Just some of the broad range of symptoms to look out for include difficulty enjoying your new baby or spending time with people, crying easily, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep problems, lack of concentration, feeling inadequate, obsessive behaviour, getting agitated easily and loss of appetite. But this is not a finite list.
Along with asking for help, it is extremely important to take care of yourself at this time by eating well, getting some rest where you can, trying to get some exercise and being open about your feelings and worries. It's also good if you can do something you enjoy doing for yourself every day, if at all possible.
Asking for help can direct you to where you need to go for possible further support, whether this is a support group, your public health nurse, your GP or a professional counsellor.
Remember the sooner you ask for help, the sooner you will feel better. Seek help early.
What is it?
There are three main types of postnatal mood change:
- Baby Blues – which is considered normal for most new mothers and usually begins 2 to 4 days after the baby is born and passes quickly
- Postnatal Depression – which affects as many as 1 in 7 new mothers and might start out as baby blues and then get worse or make develop by itself
- Puerperal psychosis – the most extreme and rarest form of postnatal mood change and it affects 1 in 500 new mothers and might mean they lose contact with reality and usually requires hospital care
- Baby Blues are extremely common during the first few days after delivery, most common on the 4th day
- The majority of new mothers experience Baby Blues
- Baby Blues may result in tearfulness, feelings of vulnerability and weariness.
- Tears are usually more hormonal than sadness related
- Mothers with Baby Blues can still smile and enjoy some things
- Baby Blues can be associated with mental and physical fatigue
- Baby Blues usually disappear quickly and will usually be gone in a few days or a couple of weeks
Post Natal Depression
- Approximately one in seven women go on to develop PND
- Just some of the symptoms and signs are: irritability, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep problems, tiredness, poor concentration
- Feeling like a failure
- Everyone else is coping
- Loss of appetite
- Obsessive behaviour
What are the signs of possible Postnatal Depression
- Everything is too much
- The caller is overwhelmed with her baby and motherhood
- The caller is permanently exhausted
- The caller complains of being constantly irritable
- Listlessness, despondency and even hopelessness
- Lack of interest and unable to concentrate
- Panic attacks
- Loss of appetite
- Obsessive behaviour
Risk Factors for PND
- Difficult pregnancy
- History of depression
- Birth experience failed to match up with expectations
- A traumatic birth
- An unwell baby
- Separated from baby
- Lack of family support and isolation
- Irrevocable change in lifestyle and sense of loss for previous life
- New babies are hard work
- Loss of sleep
- Relationship issues
- Stresses such as bereavement or illness
- Images of motherhood where they are expected to be radiant and energetic and living in perfect homes with supportive partners. This can leave other women to feel inadequate.
- Low self esteem
- Biological factors such as a drop in hormones after pregnancy
Concerns that might result from not looking for help with PND
- Mother not responding to her baby
- Mother not picking up on baby’s signals
- Baby gets mixed messages
- Baby does not get the comfort of being help
- Can lead to a language delay
- Can result in hyperactivity in boys
- Can close down emotionally from partner
Guidance for the family
- Encourage the mother to seek help and support
- Encourage the mother to contact her GP or Public Health Nurse or Counsellor
- Encourage the mother to join a support group
- Try to be patient
- Arrange childcare
- Allow her to express her fears and be sympathetic
- Assure her that her illness is temporary
- Encourage activity
- Walk together
- Go out together
- Try to ensure she is getting enough food and rest
- Give her a massage
- Reassure her of your support
- Ask friends and family to drop in to set up a support rota if possible
- Do not leave her alone with the baby for too long a period
- Do not walk away when she is being difficult
- Deal with issues on a day to day basis
- Remember your support and patience can assist her to recover
- Remind her she will get better
All Calls Welcome
Parentline welcomes calls about any parenting issue – a problem which seems trivial at an early stage can easily develop into a more serious issue for both parent and child if unaddressed.