The transition to parenthood is a significant life milestone for many. It is a time of numerous positive emotions and joy. However it can also be a time that is overwhelming physically and psychologically. This transition often involves a need for parents to re-evaluate roles, expectations and identities within themselves and of people around them. Unfortunately this transition isn’t always positive, it is thought that 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 dads/non-birthing partners experience Postnatal Depression and anxiety up to a year after birth. If you think about how many Australian children are born every year, that figure is staggering.
Postnatal Depression (PND) is also referred to as Perinatal Depression and Anxiety to encompass both depression and anxiety throughout the entire perinatal period (conception through to 12 months following birth).
Postnatal Depression (PND) consists of the same symptoms as depression at any other time however it is important to note there are a number of differences that make Postnatal Depression (PND) unique such as:
Societal pressures and unrealistic expectations of what is “normal” resulting in many parents not wanting to share how they are feeling (the masks of parenthood),
Physical and hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and childbirth make it difficult to ascertain which symptoms are caused/related to the presence of a baby and other changes that occur during the perinatal period,
Having to be responsible for self and a newborn baby adds additional pressures,
Parents may fear losing their baby if “labelled” with emotional issues,
Past experiences of being parenting can be activated resulting in negative emotions.
Further to this, we are familiar with the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child”, highlighting the importance of support networks of family and friends throughout this time. However in today’s society there has been a decline in these support systems, and decreases in extended family who live nearby. We know that one of the major contributing risk factors of PND is lack of practical and emotional support (Beyondblue, 2005; PANDA Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia, 2020). This is one of the reasons why we are passionate about providing both individual and Postnatal Depression support groups and mother’s support groups here on the Sunshine Coast throughout the perinatal period, because we understand how difficult and isolating it can be.
When thinking about what the symptoms of Postnatal Depression (PND) are, often a number of symptoms of Postnatal Depression (PND) are dismissed, as they may overlap with common physiological symptoms of pregnancy and the postnatal period such as difficulty sleeping, tiredness, nausea and appetite changes.
Other common symptoms of Postnatal Depression (PND) include:
Tearfulness and depressed mood
Loss of motivation
Lack of energy
Difficulty sleeping not related to baby
Feelings of guilt
Worries about bonding with baby
Difficulty getting organised
Avoiding social contact
Loss of interest in sex
Some women experience all of these Postnatal Depression (PND) symptoms, and others may only experience a few. If symptoms are experienced consistently over a few weeks, it may be time to seek some additional help and seek psychological support. (We provide support for Postnatal Depression for Sunshine Coast families and Australia wide).
Things that may help include:
Know that you are not alone
Tell those you trust how you “are really feeling”
Ask for and accept help
Engage in self-care (whatever that looks like for you)
Put boundaries in place (i.e. visitors)
Keep a list of things that you felt you did well
Find little things to look forward to
The PCFHub provides individual and postnatal depression support groups for Postnatal Depression for Sunshine Coast families and Australia wide via Telehealth with our perinatal psychologists and psychiatrist.
Beyondblue. (2005). Perinatal clinical practice guidelines- executive summary. Australia.
PANDA Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia. (2020) from www.panda.org.au