Postnatal depression affects 1 in 5 new mums. Louise Hurley explains the most common signs and symptoms and where you can find help if you think you've got it...
From my years working in mental health and more recently working with mums, I’ve learned that while women want help and support for postnatal depression, there are barriers to actually accepting it.
Many mums feel fear, shame and guilt about being seen as a mum with poor mental health, which can lead women to cover up their feelings, thoughts and struggles from family, friends and professionals.
If you think that you have postnatal depression there are two things I hope that you take from this article:
What are the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression?
- Know that you are not alone. One in five women experience some form of postnatal depression within the first 12 months of having a baby; and
- Know how and where to get help.
Well-meaning friends or family may say that crying, feeling sad, unhappy or worried is "normal" and refer to it as "just the baby blues", but it shouldn’t be overlooked. If you are struggling to understand your thoughts and feelings and they’re affecting your day-to-day activities it is important to seek support, especially if it has continued for more than two weeks.
Everybody is different but some common signs and symptoms include:
- Abrupt mood swings
- Feeling constantly sad, low, or crying for no obvious reason
- Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy
- Having little or no interest in all the normal things that bring joy
- Sleeping too much or not sleeping very well at all
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Being easily annoyed, irritated or angry
- Finding it difficult to focus, concentrate or remember (people with depression often describe this as a ‘brain fog’)
- Having thoughts of harming your baby or yourself
Many of these symptoms may seem normal after having a baby, especially those related to teariness, moods, exhaustion and low energy. But if they are affecting your ability to enjoy motherhood and impacting your ability to function, it’s recommended to seek help and support.
Where can I find help and support?
It’s important to firstly seek support from your GP, who should also be able to rule out any other physical conditions that can contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety, low energy and lack of motivation. You can also get information, support and guidance from the following services:
(Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia)
- 13 11 14
You can help yourself by eating nutrient-dense meals regularly (lots of fresh leafy greens, veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds), staying hydrated with water and doing some gentle exercise outdoors, such as waking. Reach out and ask for help, especially when it comes to catching up on sleep. Ask family or friends to mind your baby while you take a nap or just switch off with a massage or time alone.
The expectation that motherhood will be this rosy glow of happiness combined with societal pressures of being able to "cope" makes postnatal depression hard to accept. However, the sooner you can address it the quicker you can start to feel like yourself again and start enjoying motherhood.
Louise runs Strong Mums in Gosford, NSW. She has a background in clinical and research psychology and became a mums’ fitness professional after having her first baby.
To find out more about her and get in touch, click here. You can also find her on Instagram.