Depending upon the literature you read, anywhere between 3.7% and 76.7% of women experience post natal depression after the birth of their baby. In Australia, around 1 in 6 women report post natal depression. That means that statistically, at least one or two women in your antenatal class will go on to experience depression during the early days of their baby's life.
Postnatal depression, like any depression, can be really tough going. The difference with post natal depression is that you now have a new born baby to care for while you're struggling. Plus there's often the added emotional baggage of an expectation that it should be the most enchanting time of your life.
- Feeling sad
- Uncontrollable crying or feeling teary
- Less interested in previously enjoyable activities
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling excessive guilt
- Feeling unable to cope
- Feeling irritable
- Feeling scared and alone
- Not wanting to socialise
- Over or under eating
- Always exhausted or hyperactive
- Difficultly thinking, concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Recurrent thoughts of suicide
- Recurrent thoughts of self harm or harming the baby
- Anxiety or panic attacks
- Mood swings
- Decreased interest in sex
- Decreased self confidence and self esteem
- Negative thinking
Postnatal depression is different from the the 'baby blues'. The baby blues is much less severe, extremely common, and typically occurs within the first two weeks of child birth. It's characterised by frequent mood changes and is relatively short lived.
While technically a diagnosis of post natal depression is only given if the onset of depression occurs within the first 4 weeks of child birth, I believe (and I'm not the only one) that we can call any depression that begins in the first year of child birth post natal depression. And let's not forget about depression during pregnancy too. But just for the record, I also believe that diagnoses are only important if they're meaningful and helpful to you.
The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression is short screening tool for depression. In Australia this questionnaire is given to all pregnant women and new mothers. If you're interested, you can answer the 10 questions to see if you might be experiencing post natal depression here.
In a Melbourne based study, mothers of babies were asked about their feelings in the initial months after childbirth, and 65% reported feeling low or depressed during this time (Gilley, 1993). When asked what helped them during this period, 76% said that talking to someone was helpful. This was followed by changing their attitude (15%) and getting out with the baby (14%).
It’s different for everyone, but what I often find useful is:
- talking about what you're experiencing and normalising the challenges and difficulties of new parenthood
- looking after yourself (e.g. eating well and exercise)
- checking with your naturopath/ayurvedic practitioner/doctor to see if there's any deficiencies or other biochemical reasons for depression (post natal depression is often post natal depletion)
- taking time out for yourself without your baby
- finding creative ways to increase your sleep (this is so important)
- talking about the birth experience
- allowing yourself to ask for and receive help from loved ones
- giving yourself permission to cry and be sad
- welcoming and listening to sensations, feelings, emotions, thoughts and beliefs (rather than trying to get rid of them)
- resolving any difficulties from the past that may be bothering you (especially in your significant relationships)
- a short daily yoga practice (which may include mindfulness meditation, iRest yoga nidra, pranayama and postures)
- social interaction with other parents (e.g. support groups, yoga classes, mother's groups)
- increasing self compassion and gratitude
- regular massage (either by your partner or professionally - there's research to support this!)
If you would like support on your healing journey with pre or post natal depression, please get in touch to schedule an appointment. I'm available in person at the Lotus Centre in Mullumbimby (Australia) or online via Skype and would love help you to reconnect with yourself and your family and enjoy these early days with your baby.