PostNatal Depression & mums – what is it?
PostNatal Depression (PND) is a collection of symptoms typically presenting any time in the first year following childbirth, and it affects more than one new mum in every ten.
What is the difference between baby blues and PND?
It is considered normal for new mothers to experience ‘baby blues’ which can last for anything between a few hours to a few days. Baby blues occurs within the first week or so of giving birth, as they body goes through tremendous hormonal changes after birth.
Signs of the baby blues, include:
- Being emotional
- Being tearful
- Worry (especially about the baby)
- Being tired although perhaps unable to sleep.
Baby blues usually pass within a couple of week of birth, so any symptoms which last longer than this or start after the first couple of weeks, is more likely to signal postnatal depression.
The best way to support your partner through baby blues is to be reassuring and supportive. Allow your partner to express her feelings and don’t dismiss her concerns.
Is it PostNatal Depression?
Mum is tired, and keeps crying. The midwife tells you this is a normal hormonal response and she will get better. You wait — first one day, then one week, then one month. You feel guilty — you need to be functioning at work and cannot cope with coming home to find her sitting there amongst the housework, with the baby crying. She is not eating or sleeping. She says she cannot cope, she says she regrets becoming a mum. You say, pull yourself together, get out more, go and have a nap and I’ll look after the baby. She doesn’t pull herself together or go out. You feel powerless to help and frustrated.
Why is she like this? Why isn’t she happy?
PostNatal Depression can come on gradually or all of a sudden, and can range from being relatively mild to very hard-hitting.
No one truly knows what causes PND, but there is treatment and support available. There is no need to cope alone.
PND is not only a distressing condition, it’s a serious and disabling one, which can continue to get worse without support. It can be hugely reassuring to both you and your partner to know what’s wrong. If PND isn’t acknowledged and addressed, it’s likely to last longer and be more severe than it need be, and this can affect the relationships both between mum and baby, mum and other siblings and her with you.
If your partner has PND she will need help, but she may also need encouragement to seek it, and support in getting it. Feeling reluctant to ask for help is part of the problem – as many women will feel embarrassed or ashamed to not be happy at what is expected to be such a ‘happy time.’ Many will also feel that it means they are failing as a mum, and be afraid of being judged.
Help her to find someone to talk to, and make sure she knows that you will support her, and not abandon her.
Practical steps include helping her to get enough food, rest, and exercise. Try to ensure that she doesn’t spend too much time alone, as peer support is evidenced to help fight PND. Support her to talk to your health visitor or GP about how she is feeling.
It is important to acknowledge that it can be difficult and frustrating to live with someone who has PND and you should be prepared to seek help from wherever you can, both for yourself and for your partner. Above all, be assured you are not alone. If one in ten new mothers experience PND, that also means one in ten new fathers face this challenge.
If you believe your partner is experiencing PostNatal Depression, read more about how to help:
How to support a partner with PostNatal Depression (LINK)