New parents are often hit with clichés such as, “Enjoy every moment” during their first year with bub. And although these clichés are not said with malice or harm, they can sting, especially for those who are faced with postnatal depression or anxiety.
The reality is that up to 80 per cent of new mothers experience feelings of sadness, irritability, and bouts of crying in the first few days after birth, known as “the baby blues”. Such emotions are considered normal in those first few days, however, they should not be ignored if they are still there after a few weeks, or appear during those first 12 months, as they could be signs of postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression or PND is the name given to depression that develops up to one year after the birth of a baby. Fathers can have PND too, either along with their partner’s postnatal depression or by themselves. An estimated one in seven new mums experienced PND and one in 20 new fathers are impacted by this condition.
It is often hard to acknowledge you are experiencing PND and people often wait to try and “snap out of it”. However, it does not usually resolve itself without treatment. If PND isn’t identified and treated, the toll it can take can be considerable for the entire family. Nevertheless, with early identification and intervention most people can fully recover from PND with no long term effects.
There are several treatment options. These might include things like practical support in the home, lifestyle changes including diet and exercise, counselling and sometimes medication. Making an appointment with a GP or Child & Family Health Nurse, or contacting a support organisation such as PANDA is a good first step to diagnosis and the development of an individualised treatment plan. In situations where there are ideas about self-harm or doing harm to a baby, professional help should be sought straight away.
PND is not something to be ashamed of. It should be seen as one of the many complications of parenthood. With appropriate help, people with PND do recover.
Support organisations available to help with PND:
- PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association) – 1300 726 306, www.panda.org.au
- Pregnancy, birth and baby (Australian Government Service) – 1800 882 436, www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au
- Lifeline (Crisis service) 13 11 14, www.lifeline.org.au
Stand Up, Speak Out and Stop Suffering in Silence
Many new mums suffer with PND in silence. It can be hard to admit that you are not coping and that it could be due to PND. There is a huge strain on new parents to prove that they are succeeding in all aspects of parenting and a sense of shame when they are not.
Get involved in helping to end the stigma attached to PND. The Perinatal Depression & Anxiety (PNDA) Awareness Week is held from 15th to 21st of November each year and is a great opportunity to raise awareness about perinatal mental health issues in your local community.
New parents often assume they have to be superheroes. But the bravest thing you can do is step forward and ask for help. It’s okay to admit that things aren’t perfect. It’s okay to admit you’re not coping. In fact, asking for help is not only beneficial to you, but your new baby as well.