Part 1: Recognising post-natal depression

black-and-white-person-woman-girlMay is mothers’ month. We’ve decided. Because one day a year just isn’t enough. So, in tribute to the moms, we’re dedicating all our posts to you this month.

If you saw last week’s post, you’d have seen it was about prioritising yourself, not just for your own sake, but for the sake of your kids too. This week, we’re covering the first part of a two-part series on post-natal depression: because it’s just too big and too important to sum up in one. So, here goes…

What is PND?

Post-natal depression is a type of clinical depression that can affect parents of both sexes after childbirth. It’s common too, affecting between 0.5% and 61% of all mothers and between 1% and 25.5% of fathers. It shouldn’t be confused with the ‘baby blues’ though; a normal period of moodiness, weepiness, anxiety and exhaustion that lasts for a few days shortly after delivery.

The difference

The most notable differences between PND and the baby blues are severity and timing. Like any form of clinical depression, PND isn’t a short-term thing that one can just ‘snap’ out of – it’s a deep, dark, legitimate illness that needs treatment just like any physical ailment would. Anything longer than two weeks should be taken seriously.

And unlike the baby blues, it doesn’t always show up around the one-week mark; it could take months to set in, and in as many as 50% of cases, it even starts before delivery. Nobody knows what causes it either; hypotheses include hormones, lifestyle changes, and genetics.

Recognising it

One of the hardest parts of recognising PND is accepting it yourself. So often, when people are depressed, they deny it… probably because of the stigma around mental illness. It’s hard admitting that you’re not okay.

According to Wikipedia, the typical symptoms include:

1. Emotional difficulties:

  • Persistent sadness, anxiety or ‘empty’ mood
  • Severe mood swings
  • Frustration, irritability, restlessness, and anger
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or helplessness
  • Guilt, shame, worthlessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Numbness, emptiness
  • Exhaustion
  • Inability to be comforted
  • Trouble bonding with the baby
  • Feeling inadequate in taking care of the baby

2. Behavioral concerns:

  • Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities
  • Low or no energy
  • Low libido
  • Changes in appetite
  • Fatigue, diminished energy and motivation
  • Poor self-care
  • Social withdrawal
  • Insomnia or excessive sleep

3. Cognitive struggles:

  • Diminished ability to make decisions and think clearly
  • Lack of concentration and poor memory
  • Fear that you can’t care the baby or fear of the baby
  • Worry about harming self, baby, or partner

If you think you (or someone you know) have PND, please, please talk to someone, like the Post-Natal Depression Support Association, or even just your GP. It’s important. While it’s okay to feel like this, you don’t have to and it isn’t healthy. There are ways out of this darkness and people who know what you’re going through that want to help. You aren’t alone.

Look out for our next post on treating PND.

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