Before I became a mum, I didn’t think I knew anyone who’d suffered from postnatal depression.
Now I see lots of people (mums and dads) who, whether they’ve had a diagnosis or not, seem to have one or more of the symptoms.
We’ve probably all experienced at least one of them at some stage, including;
- Sleep disturbance unrelated to baby’s sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Crying – feeling sad and crying without apparent reason OR feeling like you want to cry but can’t
- Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control, unable to cope
- Negative obsessive thoughts
- Fear of being alone OR withdrawing from family and friends
- Memory difficulties and loss of concentration
- Feeling guilty and inadequate
- Loss of confidence and self-esteem
It’s not my place to diagnose anyone, but I do think being a mum increases your awareness of how tough the job can be.
Isn’t it odd that one of the most joyful experiences in life can be so damn difficult? It really is one of life’s great mysteries.
It’s post-natal depression awareness week, and the experts want us to know that it’s not always black and white. Given most of us have bad days, there is a grey area where it’s hard to know whether you, or someone around you, need help.
PANDA (the Post and Ante Natal Depression Association) is the only specialist national organisation that raises community awareness of depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after birth (perinatal period); and provides support services to families to assist in their recovery.
Since having Miss Three, I have often wondered about friends and acquaintances who may be experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression.
I believe that too often we discount what mums are experiencing because ‘being a new mum is hard’ and ‘sleep deprivation is normal’. Of course these are true, but they also make detecting and addressing depression a lot harder if you think whatever’s happening to you is normal. If you’re also given the impression that everyone else has the same experience as you but seems to ‘cope’ better than you do, that makes seeking help a lot harder.
It’s tempting to barge right in and ask mums who are having a tough time how they feel and whether they need specific help, but sometimes the person isn’t a close friend so I’ve adopted a more subtle approach. I often ask them how much help they have around them, and how they think they are coping. Usually they know that something is wrong but they aren’t sure what it is, or what can be done about it.
I’ve suggested they mention how tough they’re finding it to an expert – and asked how they feel about talking to their GP or baby clinic.
Twice now, these people have made contact with me later to tell me that they did indeed mention it to an expert, who has referred them to services and they now seem much better, happier and more rested and are enjoying motherhood significantly more.
I am very relieved, and couldn’t be happier for them.
Have you – or someone you know – ever needed help?
Did you say something, or were you too worried?
If you are concerned that you are suffering from post natal depression, the National Perinatal Depression Helpline 1300 726 306 which provides counseling and support to those living with depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby. Operates 9-7pm Monday to Friday (EST)
Disclosure: PANDA invited me to a very lovely dinner in Sydney to discuss and learn about post-natal depression awareness week. Thanks to them and the other bloggers for a lovely night out and all the great work they all do helping new mums.
There’s a lot of other good stuff from the blogosphere around on this at the moment. Some great links are below.