Most of us have an idea of what postnatal depression is, but its important to understand the scope to which it can affect indivduals and families.
Postnatal depression can include both depression and anxiety and can occur anywhere within the first year after the birth of your child. It is thought that somewhere between 10-20% of new mothers (this includes mums with baby number 2, 3, etc) may experience diagnosable postnatal depression.
There are a few widely accepted risk factors which many professionals believe may increase the probability of postnatal mental health issues forming. This includes but isn’t limited to:
- A history of mental health issues – depression, anxiety and most other mental health conditions.
- A lack of support before, during and after the birth – this can include issues with the relationship of the child’s parents, as well as a lack of social support such as isolation from family (e.g. Living in a different town/country from the rest of family etc.)
- Life stresses – money issues, trouble at work, relationship problems etc.
- Difficulties within the pregnancy itself – this can range from severe morning sickness (Hyperemesis Gravidarum), to break through bleeding, regular ED admissions or requiring extra scans etc.
- Difficult birth – Post natal mental health issues appear to be more common in those who had tricky births and deliveries – emergency caesarean surgery, loss of blood, use of vontouse or forceps, episiotomies etc.
- Health of the infant – if the baby is born with health issues, a lot of stress is placed on the family – particularly the parents. Often parents who have an unwell child at birth struggle with feelings of guilt, sadness and stress, which are all risk factors for depression and anxiety.
- Lower socio-economic families – in the 2015 New Mothers Mental Health Survey (2015) it was found that mothers coming from a ‘Low Household income’ (Under $40,000) were more likely to develop post-partum mental health issues.
- Issues with the baby after birth i.e. feeding issues, colic, sleeplessness etc
Many feelings and thought patterns associated with postnatal depression and anxiety are normal to feel as we adjust to life with a new baby so it is important to be able to recognize when help is required. Here are a few signs and symptoms to be aware of:
- Feelings of hopelessness, confusion and sadness which linger.
- A belief that you can’t cope. Not just one-off thoughts, but reoccurring or constant thoughts
- Irritable and angry for no known reason
- No pleasure in usual activities
- Changes to sleeping and eating – above and beyond what is expected with a new baby
- A lack of concern over appearance and self-care
- Negative thoughts about the baby, an unwillingness to hold or care for the baby or thoughts of harming the baby
- Being overly anxious, overwhelming uncertainty and excessive worry and fear
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Difficulty thinking clearly and making every day decisions.
The ‘Baby Blues’ are common in the first few weeks after baby is born which include several of the thoughts and feelings listed above. Postnatal depression and anxiety is when these issues linger for an extended period of time or become so severe that they interfere with everyday life affecting the care and health of both mum and baby.
As new parents, we often turn all of our attention to our new baby and forget to look after ourselves. It is important to remember that we need to be well in order for us to provide the best care for our children. The ‘Fourth Trimester’ or first 12 weeks after our baby is born is still a hugely important area for both mum and baby with a lot of physical and hormonal changes occurring, not to mention an adjustment to family dynamics, routines and our mental health. This period is when support systems are invaluable. Make use of family, friends, support groups, health professionals, call lines and mental health professionals. It is important to remember that a happy, healthy mum is going to immensely help your baby.
Recently there has been some media coverage about postnatal mental health and lack of help, delay of treatment and gaps within the current health system. Here in Auckland, there are several places you can reach out, detailed below. However, Shore Therapy caters to many parents dealing with different types of post-natal issues. We are baby friendly and often will have mum and dad in our offices, seeking therapy together. Babies are more than welcome to come along as we understand that separation, child care etc… is not always an option. Northland has high rates of post-natal issues, why this is, we’re not quite sure, but help is still available. If you want to visit Shore Therapy in their offices in the Whangarei area or Auckland Click Here to make a booking online or send us an email for more information.
Where to get help: