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Babies 0-12 Months | Mom's Wellbeing

What is Post Natal Depression (PND)?

Congratulations on the birth you’re your new baby! This is a very exciting time for you, your family and special friends. You may be wondering why everyone is feeling so on top of the world about this new little bundle of joy, but you just cant seem to find those same feelings of happiness, energy, and acceptance of your new baby. There is always an expectation of ‘love at first sight’ when you and your baby meet for first time, however this is most often not the case. It takes time and effort to get to know and understand one another and over the following months your relationship will grow into something magical. Many women suffer in silence in this regard for fear of judgement, being thought of as an inadequate mother or viewed as ungrateful for your ‘precious gift’. However, it is so important to state that many women share these feelings of ‘not being oneself and out of place’ with you. Please believe that you are not alone.

From my experience in this field many women often push through these difficult times and think it’s normal. It is normal to a point, but when it becomes unhealthy for yourself and your family, you should seek help.

Lastly, it is important for me to express that these symptoms are not meant for the biological mother alone. Research is proving more frequently that men and parents of adopted children are affected as much by this condition, and they themselves are also in need of the same support.

This article serves to give a basic overview of Post Natal Depression, its symptoms, causes and various treatment options.

When a mother has PND, it affects not only her, but also:

  • her immediate family, including her partner
  • her friends and acquaintances
  • her functioning at work and at home

There are 3 types of Post Natal emotional disorders

1. “The Blues’ – (30-80% of all mothers). The Blues usually occur between the 3rd and 5th day post delivery. Symptoms include tearfulness, tiredness, anxiety, over-emotional reactions, up and down mood swings, feeling low, and muddled thinking. These symptoms usually only last 5-10 days. Often this is baffling for an unprepared new father, who cannot understand what is happening to his normally happy wife, who has just produced a beautiful, healthy baby.

2. Post Natal Depression – (0 – 30% of all mothers). PND is a continuum of The Blues and may develop slowly in months following the arrival of the new baby. PND has similar symptoms as the Blues, but it is a more serious illness as the symptoms are more severe and last longer – up to a year if untreated.

3. Post Natal Psychosis (0.1-0.2% of all mothers). This is the most severe of the postpartum illnesses. Symptoms include heightened or reduced motor activity, hallucinations, marked deviation in mood, severe depression, mania, or both, confusion, and delirium. Symptoms varying in length depending on appropriate care.

What is PND?

Up to 30% of all new mothers, in all cultures and circumstances, develop Postnatal Depression (PND) during the first year after the birth of a baby. This is a clinical depression, and it is nobody’s fault. The new mother experience feelings of despair, anxiety or unhappiness which can become debilitating.

Over time she becomes more angry, weepy, tired, anxious, panicky, and generally overwhelmed. She may be too exhausted to leave the house, yet afraid to be alone. Her moods are likely to be unpredictable; she loses enjoyment of life and of her usual interests, including sex. Her confidence disappears; she can’t sleep normally; her eating patterns change. She feels that her life is out of control; she may want to harm herself or her baby; she may contemplate or attempt suicide. It’s a confusing situation for her as she feels trapped and at the mercy of a demanding baby, but also may feel unable to accept help in caring for the infant, because of feeling guilty about not being the ‘perfect mother’, or because she is unable to trust anyone else with the task.

She may perceive her partner and her family and friends as uncaring and unsupportive. She feels abandoned when hubby goes to work, or when her friends leave. Resentment builds up when she has to prepare supper and take care of the home, yet also feels guilty because she feels that she is failing everyone around her at being a “good enough” wife or mother.

However, it in important to note that with appropriate support and psychological intervention this condition can be overcome.

How can you help your wife/friend with PND?

Depression is not the result of lack of willpower, or a weak character. The person cannot “snap out of it” or “pull herself together”. The more you try push her in this direction the deeper she will fall into this trap of depression.

Here are some ways in which you can make life a little easier for the new mom:

  • Get professional help – Contact a health professional. You can’t manage this alone.
  • Listen to her when she talks about her feelings and don’t feel pressurised to offer solutions
  • Don’t criticise – she already has feelings of inadequacy and failure so this will disenable her even more
  • Give unconditional acceptance – You don’t have to agree with her perceptions and distortions. Just believe that she is living in a dark world that is real for her.
  • Don’t take things personally – Your loved one’s depression is not your fault, nor is it hers.
  • Don’t push her into doing things for which she is not ready.
  • Don’t patronise – learn when your help is welcome and when it makes her feel incompetent.
  • Stay calm! – Remember that you are the “well” one.
  • Be supportive – This means anticipating her needs and accepting her feelings.

Article courtesy of Hayley Asbury, Clinical Psychologist based in Hillcrest, KZN.

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