The pressures after having a baby can be intense. While we tend to think of the stress of sleepless nights, often that’s the least of the worries for new mothers. Changes in hormones, lack of sleep, and other stresses can take a huge toll on new mums. The important thing is to realise that, while postnatal depression is a serious issue, effective treatments are available. Too often women suffer needlessly because they delay seeking help. This may be due to societal conditioning and the expectation that new mothers should be happy. In fact, postnatal depression is a common issue that people often don’t recognise.
New Mother Down
Pregnancy makes significant demands on a woman’s body. Changing hormone levels during and after birth can cause fatigue, depression, anxiety, memory issues, moodiness, and other symptoms. Add in sleepless nights up with the new baby and you have a recipe for postnatal depression and anxiety. In addition to the physical challenges, often a new baby brings other areas of stress into the lives of new parents. Contrary to expectations, breastfeeding and caring for a fussy baby are rarely skills that magically appear after giving birth. Women often feel pressured to be “great” mothers to their newborn without being given the time to understand and grow into their new role.
The birth of a child can also present new areas of disagreement with family and friends. Different styles of parenting, expectations regarding childrearing duties, and commentary by the new grandparents and well-meaning friends and family can bring friction. Ideally, couples will discuss parenting styles, duties and expectations long before the birth of the child, but even those conversations may be very different from living with a baby day-to-day.
The pressure of a new mouth to feed and, perhaps, a parent taking extended leave from work can create enormous stress and anxiety. These are all factors that can contribute to postnatal depression.
Is It Postnatal Depression?
Know the signs – postnatal depression is often misunderstood. While it is associated with new mothers, postnatal depression can develop anytime within a year following the birth of a baby. This can cause women to miss the symptoms of postnatal depression or attribute them to fatigue from caring for the new baby. It is important to be able to recognise the symptoms in order to quickly get help and to prevent the problem from becoming worse. Here are common concerns associated with postnatal depression:
- Feeling sad or moody
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty sleeping at night and/or being sleepy during the day
- Loss of interest in normal activities
- Feeling unable to care properly for your baby
- Difficulty concentrating
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling irritable
- Lacking interest in other people or usual activities
- Difficulty developing a bond with your baby
- Negative thoughts – like hurting yourself or your baby
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help. Even if these specific symptoms don’t sound like you but you feel “off” or otherwise unable to cope following the birth of a baby, you should still seek assistance. The more quickly you go for help, the faster you can be feeling better.
Steps to a New You
Once you’ve realised you may have postnatal depression the next step is getting help. If you are experiencing any medical issues following your pregnancy, it is important to discuss those with your doctor. Women may become so caught up in caring for their baby that they neglect to talk to their doctor about problems they may be having.
If you are feeling depressed, stressed or moody, it may be time to reach out to a psychologist for an evaluation and treatment plan. There are many psychological approaches that are effective in dealing with postnatal depression. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help with managing the symptoms of the disorder, whilst schema therapy can address the underlying roots, which can often go back to childhood experiences.
If you aren’t sure if you have postnatal depression, it is important to find out. At The Chelsea Psychology Clinic, we can discuss your concerns and provide an evaluation along with a treatment plan that we agree on together. That way you can receive the care you need. Contact us today to schedule a confidential appointment.