Postnatal Depression

Postnatal Depression is actually more common than many people realise and occurs in about 80 per cent of women after child birth.

The feeling of the ‘baby blues’ often passes within two days, but if it continues then this is what is known as postnatal depression (PND).

Postnatal Depression usually occurs within the first 12 months of having a baby, often within the first few weeks or months.  The severity of the depression can range from very mild and almost non-existent, to very severe and long-term and tends to be most common after the first pregnancy.

Some women experience depression during pregnancy, this is called ante natal depression.

The most common symptoms that you are likely to experience with PND are; Lowered self-esteem and a lack of confidence, guilt, inadequacy, negative thoughts, pessimism, feelings that life is meaningless, irritability, tearfulness, feelings of inability to cope, sleeping problems, lowered libido, anxiety, panic attacks, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, and difficulties in remembering or concentrating on things.

Not every woman will experience all these symptoms as it depends on the severity of the depression.

Although the exact cause of PND is not yet known some of the contributing factors may be:

Physical Changes
Giving birth, easy or not, is a major experience for the female body and the sudden change in hormones affects the brain’s chemical balance. The fact that there is a new born child around that needs attention also means that women are less likely to be able to get the sleep that they need. becoming exhausted and trying to adapt to broken sleep does not help the mother get through the initial depression that they may experience.

Emotional Changes
The adaptation process that new mothers have to take is made increasingly harder by the fact that there is a new born to be looked after. Recovery is made harder by underlying factors such as; broken sleep, changed relationship with a partner, loss of independence, and the constant demands of the child can sometimes become far too overwhelming for some women after childbirth.

Social Changes
The social stigma surrounding childbirth makes adjusting to this new addition extremely hard, the new mother may find herself losing contact with her friends and learning to live off one wage makes the situation even harder.

Further Reading

Baby Blues – A story by Joanne

It is still daunting for me to realise just how much PMT/depression has impacted on my life. As a teenager I suffered server mood swings around my periods which seemed to go away after the birth of my first son. However, in the past year (14 years later) I have reassumed the pattern of mood swings again. In has a massive negative affect on my partner and sons, who do what all good males should do – ignore me!! I have found myself having suicidal thoughts around these times and feel completely overwhelmed with sadness. I am not sure that I want to take drugs, but the one thing that does really help is if someone shows me a little kindness and understanding, also I have found counselling to be major stabilising force when I am very low.

Hi, I’m 27years old and also am suffering postnatal depression. I am on the road to recovery I hope but as you would know it isn’t easy. I was only diagnosed with depression after the birth of my second and last child. I went undiagnosed for three and half years, since the birth of my first child.

I put my recovery down to neverending support from my parents, partner and friends. Though my depression didn’t reach to breaking point I still thought my world was over. I found doing my art has been a great healer for me personally and often wonder about how other people deal with this alternantive way of recovering.

I was very anxious about getting pregnant, not really about looking after the baby but being pregnant. I got pregnant straight away, from the decision to have a baby and getting pregnant was only 1 month. I had very bad morning sickness. It started from then.

My husband was working way too many hours and not spending time with me during the pregnancy. He started getting fit, running and riding to work and I was stuck finding it hard to do anything like that, over that time losing interest in work, social activities wanting to sleep all day and getting very insecure about my husbands whereabouts when he was not at home. I lost my appetite and was force feeding and started up smoking cigarettes towards the end of my pregnancy.

I ended up moving out of home and staying with my sister 6 weeks before the baby was born only because I had extremely high levels of anxiety and was not eating and needed someone to look after me as I was not able to be alone with too many bad negative thoughts about everything. Often lying about things to avoid thinking about stuff, there were to many bad thoughts on top of bad thoughts making me feel sick often involving in anxiety attacks. The baby never stopped kicking with every anxious feeling the reaction movement from the baby making me more distressed that she was not relaxed and feeling that my body reaction to the anxiety would affect her after she was born.

I had been taking sleeping tablets since the 4th month every night and only having 3hrs sleep a night for the following months sometimes up all night pacing the driveway thinking, sweating, anxiety attacks, driving and trying to tell my story trying to get help from who ever I could who would relieve me from getting my mind from thinking even if it was for 5 mins at any time. I had moved in with my sister also because my husband was not home to look after me as I did not want him to see me like this. He often called to speak to me and I pretended that I was too busy having fun that sometimes I would not speak to him. He would ask how I was and then talk about how much fun he was having and what he was doing with his life I could not bare thinking that his world was moving on and here I was a basket case not being able to shower, get up and do things, sleep and was faced with the reality that I was going to have a baby and I could not even look after myself let alone a baby.

I begged my gyno to induce me but he would not do it. I had problems communicating how I was feeling only I understood but could not express it into words. Around 1 week before the baby was born I was staying at my mother in laws only to be close to my husband and to make sure that when the baby was born I was not without my husband around, that he was going to be at the birth. My gyno went on holidays and I organised to be induced by his replacement.

It was a 6hr labor and the hospital was fantastic I had an epidural so a pain free labor. I remember the nurse putting my daughter on my chest I was crying firstly of fear of the labor and then in happiness that it was her I had a beautiful health baby and fell instantly in love with her.

During my stay at the hospital my husband fed our baby girl and she stopped breathing. He said to me she is not breathing and I could not tell, I was recovering from labor in my depressive world of having to cope with a new born baby and not having any external notice of room temperature and not seeing clearly any situation. I ran to the nursery station with my newborn where they gave her oxygen, she was fine and started breathing normal again.

I was very nervous about coming home I started my antidepressants the day before our baby was born, I knew that it would take up to 6 weeks to start to feel any relief of the anxiety and thoughts. My world was collapsing. The maternal health nurse came to visit and I told her how I was feeling, crying at the drop of a hat and not coping, feeling that my husband would not feed my baby and I was too busy trying to cope with the situation of being a carer for our baby. I was now taking sleeping tablets in between feeds to try to get some rest. I was on the phone while my husband was out to the doctors to send me scripts for sleepers or to leave them at reception and getting my husband to pick them up and sending him down to the chemist to make sure I had enough. I got caught by the chemist he had said to my husband that I have a problem.

In the mean time the health nurse had organised with my gyno for me to be sent to a mother baby unit. I was pleased to get some help. My husband was upset with me and did not think that I had to be there. I was really sad. The day I went there they told me it was up to me if I felt I needed to stay there or not. I really needed help. I had to do it. The mother baby unit was also on the same complex as the adult and adolescent unit everyone to me looked weird and psycho. Was this really the place for me and my daughter. I had to do it I needed help.

I was there for 3 weeks and 5 days. I saw my own psychiatrist daily in that time, with several therapy sessions and help with the baby. While I got some rest and several times I was caught outside smoking to avoid doing anything as I still could not cope completely. I was put onto different sleepers and valium during the day and night to help make me sleep and to relax.

I felt like a robot I was doing things for my baby, I was trying so hard to be responsible for her. On the first day that I was there I went shopping down into the city and I had said that I would be only 1/2 hr where I rocked up some 3 hours later, not aware that I had done anything wrong. It was hard. I was sent home, even though I did not think that I was ready, but they said I could not stay in there for ever.

At last the anxiety level had come down and I started feeling a lot better after 6 weeks. I was having problems with my marriage, as I felt rejected from my husband and felt that he was not supportive of me in the time that I needed him the most, he was not there for me and I felt that It would take me sometime to forgive him for not being there for me. I started to get on with my life. I started working partime at the pub where I was given the opportunity to be trained in this as I had not done anything like that before.

Looking back that was really good for me to be in touch with people doing bar work which was really good for me. I started up with mothers group, netball and the gym. I made a date every Friday to spend with a great friend of mine who is a motherly figure to me this gave me a timetable of things to keep me busy while at home rather than getting into the rut of staying at home and avoid making my life isolated as it had been in the pervious months.

It took time and effort and my own commitment to make all of these things happen. I had to do it by myself and for myself and my daughter. My husband went through a stage when he was out of work for a good few months and that was a trying time having him with us every day.

At the moment I still have my days. Now 12 months on from the birth of my baby girl I still have bad days when I want to hid from the world not do any house work have afternoon sleeps and avoid answering the phone but there are days when I can take on the world.

I still have problems with my marriage, I feel that my husband is more married to the two of us than just me. We have not been spending quality time with just the two of us, but now that he will be home a bit more I have brought it to his attention and hopefully we can begin to mend the marriage that has suffered from affection and attention during this time.

I feel that I have now bonded and have a clear relationship with my daughter but sometimes feel I need to be loved by someone as well, that’s where time will tell whether I can get what I want out of my marriage and one day will give up and look elsewhere.

Joanne
Age 27

Black Dog Institute
A comprehensive depression website, with a section dealing specifically with issues that arise when a woman is planning to conceive, is pregnant, or has recently given birth and is experiencing mood disorders or has a history of mood disorders.

http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/