Transitioning into motherhood or having another baby can be the biggest life changing experience for many women, sometimes overwhelming and unknown. Not only do you need to factor in the changes a child brings but also the needs of integrating daily activities, such as shopping, self care, work and social commitments. This can be a lot to absorb, elevating stress levels and having an effect on energy, mood, and general well being.
A number of women may experience depression at some stage in their pregnancy and this is referred to as Antenatal Depression. Statistics show that about 10 percent of pregnant women in Australia experience antenatal depression. Depression experienced after giving birth is commonly known as postnatal depression or PND. This type of depression statistically affects almost 16 per cent of women giving birth in Australia. The collective term used to describe both antenatal and postnatal depression is perinatal depression.
Women who have had depression in the past are at higher risk of developing postnatal depression. This is does not mean that it is a definite, as PND can come about without warning after delivery, giving women very little control over their emotions. Hormonal and chemical changes in the body and brain play a part in PND and so it is important not to blame yourself, your baby or partner. There are many factors that also contribute, such as stress relating to a challenging baby, limited sleep and a complicated delivery, as well as, limited or no support, isolation, childhood abuse and relationship problems.
It is uncommon for PND to completely disappear without treatment, and if not recognised it can have long term effects on everyone involved not just the mother. It is hard for some women to admit they need help or admit they have a problem, but the sooner PND is treated the less likely it is to last in duration. It is imperative for women and their partners to learn to identify the signs and symptoms of PND so that they can ask for help as early as possible. By means of early identification and intervention, most women make a complete recovery.
If after giving birth you’re not feeling like you expected, it may be useful to talk to a doctor or psychologist just to make sure everything is alright. It may be that you’re just adjusting to your new changes a baby brings and the demands of motherhood. Pregnancy can have many complications, and PND is not something to be feeling guilty about and is actually common and treatable. With the right support you can minimise and make a full recovery.