Postnatal depression occurs when a woman experiences depression that develops between one month and up to one year after giving birth. Postnatal depression affects up to one in seven women in Australia (Beyond Blue 2016).
Becoming a parent involves a roller coaster of emotions such as excitement, joy, stress, anxiety and apprehension. Emotional distress, also known as the ‘baby blues’, is common during the first few days after giving birth, causing new mothers to feel overly sensitive, teary, overwhelmed and moody. For most women, this experience is a normal part of the process and should dissipate within a few days. If these feelings are affecting your day-to-day functioning or have still not lifted after a few weeks, it is worth speaking to a trusted healthcare professional about support that is available.
Seeking support early is important, as postnatal depression and anxiety can impact not only your mental wellbeing, but also your relationship with your partner and your baby. Plus, it can be an extremely overwhelming and isolating experience as you try to cope with your own symptoms as well as adjusting to and caring for a new baby (and sometimes other children). Postnatal depression is nothing to be ashamed of and there is nothing “wrong” with you. It is important to remember that postnatal depression is a temporary medical condition and fortunately, with the right support, it is treatable.
Understanding Postnatal Depression
Symptoms of postnatal depression can begin during pregnancy, straight after birth, or gradually in the weeks/months after birth. You may experience mild, moderate or severe symptoms. It can be difficult to identify symptoms of postnatal depression, as new parents naturally feel exhausted and emotional, and also because some of the changes you are going through as new parents are similar to symptoms of depression, such as changes to appetite and/or sleeping patterns.
Symptoms of postnatal depression can include:
New dads can also be affected by postnatal depression, with 1 in 10 new dads experiencing depression after the birth of their baby. Becoming a parent can be a huge adjustment, with added stress and pressure for both parents. Whilst it can be confronting for men to come to terms with these feelings, let alone talk about their feelings and seek support, it is one of the most important steps that a new dad can do to support his family.
A psychologist or counsellor works with you to develop an effective and tailored treatment plan that addresses the contributing factors. Psychologists and counsellors can help you identify unhelpful thought processes or behaviours, find ways to accept and adapt to being a new parent, and implement skills to cope with stress and manage symptoms of depression.
These strategies can lead to recovery and enable you to feel and function at your bes