On average, one in five people will experience depression at some point in their lives. Admitting depression and seeking help for it is becoming more socially accepted. However, post-natal depression (PND) does not share the same openness – especially since mothers are expected to be elated at the birth of their beautiful baby.
Having a baby is an exciting time. But for some women, it can also be a time of enormous change and worry. Some anxiety, tearfulness or feeling overwhelmed is normal. New and expectant fathers are also at significantly greater risk of becoming distressed at this time. Fathers may feel grief and loss due to losing the emotional connection with their wives or partners and by not experiencing the joy of being a new father.
Mothers and fathers can experience mood changes, tearfulness, anxiety or indifference towards the baby. Some women may feel abandoned by their husbands/partners as they head back to work and they feel ‘trapped’ at home.
I remember feeling completely abandoned and isolated after my husband returned to work. After the initial flurry of excitement our son’s arrival, family interest seemed to peter out. I was home for the whole day with only our tiny human for company; he cried, he fed, he pooed, he slept and then I cleaned the house, washed clothes, wandered in a daze and panicked about being a ‘good’ mother. Oh the mother-guilt is crippling in itself, let alone any depression.
With the arrival of our second son, I thought I would know what I was doing, but it was worse. As he hardly slept at all and was a fussy and painful breast-feeder, I found myself resenting him and sometimes I couldn’t even look at him. I disliked all the time and energy he took from me and yet never seemed satisfied. With time we got to know each other better and after he was about 10-months old I felt I finally had a bond with him.
At this time, I found out that we were expecting our third son and I was devastated. I felt that I couldn’t possibly do all THIS again! How would I cope? I almost didn’t trust myself. When I did finally come to accept that we were going to have another baby I was about 20 weeks pregnant and enjoying the best pregnancy ever.
Looking back I think I was experiencing PND and I didn’t seek help but I wish I had.
PND is the name given to depression that develops between one month and up to one year after the birth of a baby. Postnatal depression can begin suddenly or develop gradually and it’s a very common condition.
It is important to be well enough to care for and enjoy a baby. It’s also worth noting that while PND is serious medication is not always necessary.
Here are 5 simple ways that can help with PND:
1. Try to be healthy: Eat healthy meals, exercise as much as you can (push the pram around the block) and avoid drugs and alcohol. Don’t undertake any diet and exercise programs without consulting your doctor.
2. Sleep or rest when the baby does: Don’t worry about what time of the day it is or that you ‘should’ be doing housework. Getting enough rest is valuable work and this will help you to help your baby.
3. Let others help you: Accept all offers to help with the day-to-day care of your baby from the beginning. Don’t worry if they do things differently to you; just let them get on with the job. If helping with baby is not possible but people still want to help, don’t be embarrassed to ask them to cook a meal or run some errands for you.
4. Be gentle on yourself: It can take time to adjust to becoming a parent. Acknowledge the many things you’ve achieved and are doing well. Try not to focus on the areas where you feel you ‘should’ be doing better.
5. Get help early: If after trying these tips you are still frequently feeling negative about or towards you baby then you should seek professional assistance from your doctor or maternal health practitioner.
Remember nothing can prepare you for the initial shock of childbirth and the work of caring for and raising a well-rounded human. However, by maintaining a healthy mind and body you can be ready to tackle the challenge and build a strong bond with your baby. If you still cannot bring yourself to get help for you; do it for your baby!