Having a baby could be a challenging life experience to most moms. One of them is PND that stands for Postnatal Depression. Following childbirth, it is common for women to experience a period of low mood. The severity can vary from a mild (baby blues), through to PND and to the most severe but very rare postnatal psychosis.
Statistically, around 10% of women will experience PND. It is a depressive illness that occurs after having a baby. In most cases, PND will generally start within 1 month after giving birth, but records also show that some moms experienced PND around six months or even within the first week after giving birth. For most women, it passes quickly; for others, professional help is needed and without treatment, it can last for months or rarely years.
So far, expert still cannot find the exact cause of PND. Postnatal depression is most common after the first pregnancy. PND women have symptoms that are similar with ordinary depression although two of them are not the same, they are lack of confidence, anxiety, negative thoughts, difficulty sleeping, feelings of being unable to cope or that life is meaningless, loss of appetite, and so on. Theses will be explained further below.
There are some factors that give a woman more chances to experience Postnatal Depression. However your doctor can work with you to reduce the risk of getting it. Those factors are:
- If you have previous record of PND with your previous pregnancies, you are at a very high risk of experiencing it again. Pay attention to any warning signs of depression recurring. It is the first step in preventing PND in this case.
- If you have a depression during pregnancy and being treated but then you have to stop the medication in order to avoid side effects to your fetus, you might be in a risk of getting PND. In this case, you will need to restart the depression medication process after birth to prevent PND and that would mean there is a possibility that you cannot breast feed.
- If you experienced bipolar depression in the past, you are at a high risk getting PND. Pay attention to any warning signs and by understanding what treatments to ease the bipolar depression would be important to prevent PND in this case.
Symptoms of Postnatal Depression
PND symptoms are very similar to "ordinary" depression, such as:
- Irritable. You might have sensitive and irritated feelings. Although mostly it happens with your partner, sometimes you can have irritated feelings with your baby too.
- Depressed. You may frequently feel low and unhappy during the day. It can be peak at certain times of the day. For example: in the mornings when you wake up or evenings when you are about to sleep. You may have hope from some good days but then are followed by bad days which make you despair.
- Hard to Sleep. PND women can have insomnia. No matter how tired you are, you simply can't fall asleep.
- Can't easily enjoy anything. You will find plain life. It is hard for you to enjoy or be interested in anything.
- Guilty. PND like ordinary depression, changes the way you think and makes you see things negatively. Feeling of guilty, useless is most common in PND women.
- Overloaded. PND can make you feel overloaded in everything. You may feel that you have no time in doing things and organize daily routine in your life especially with your baby.
- Anxiety. You might worry too much about your baby. You might have feared that your baby will be harmed in some way that you don't want to leave your baby alone.
PND woman have a symptom of disorder that she tends to withdraw from people including her baby. PND mother might think that she does not have good relationship with her baby. She thinks that the relationship should happen immediately within first few days or weeks after birth or it will not happen at all.
It is normal in PND and does not mean that she is a bad mother. However, once the depression has gone, the mother will be able to feel her full range of emotions and can enjoy her baby more. During this time, she just needs some help and assurance from family and friends.
So, Will PND women harm their baby?
It is very common that depressed mothers often worry that they might harm their baby. It is very normal that through tiredness and desperation, you might have feeling to hit or shake your baby. This happens to mothers and also fathers and not only to those who has PND. The fact is that most of them would never act on them. But if you do feel this, tell someone. They might help you. Your health visitor or doctor will also be able to help you with this.
However, for those who have a history of being harmed, abused, mistreated when they were young may sometimes do harm their babies (battered babies) and this case does not relate directly to PND.
Very rarely a mother with PND may harm her baby. On the other hand, mothers may kill their babies before committing suicide thinking that it is better for both of them to be dead. Fortunately it is very unusual.
Just remember that PND is treatable illness and the sooner they are treated the better it will be. Speak with your family members or professional as soon as possible.
Some tips if you have PND
The most common in PND women is they feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about feeling depressed that make them reluctant to talk about their problem with somebody.
Talking about the problem with somebody, such as a health professional, can be very helpful. Most PND mother often worry that people will see them as unfit parents.
Postnatal Depression or PND can happen to any woman. You and your baby don't have to suffer and it does not mean that you are a bad mum.
Here are some useful tips:
- Rest as much as you can. Sleep when your baby sleeps.
- Do not give too much pressure on yourself. Do as much as you can and rest. You can ask your partner, parents, other family members or even your friends to help you out with looking after your baby, household or other things surround you.
- Talk about how you feel to your husband, partner, family members or trusted friends. Spend time with them.
- Talk to other mothers so you can learn from their experiences.
- Join parent group in your local community.Try not to spend a lot of time alone. You need to leave the house sometimes. Take a short walk might help you. Research says that the sun can help reduce depression.
In some cases, anti-depressants are necessary. Although this can affect breast milk, there are drugs that are safe. Talk to your doctor or midwife.
Finally, even if you have been depressed for a while, support, counseling and medication can all help you to get better. It's never too late.