Being a new parent can be a somewhat daunting experience. Our hormones, the after effects of giving birth, of supporting our loved one in giving birth, and having a new little ‘un to care for, can all lead to a rollercoaster of emotions. There are natural lows that occur with ‘baby blues’ and sheer exhaustion but some of us will experience postnatal depression and it can be an incredibly scary time for us. On top of how we’re feeling, there’s often an acute sense of guilt and shame and fear which can stop us reaching out for the help we need. Parenting can be an emotive topic at the best of times; it’s sometimes difficult to talk about what we’re going through for fears that others will judge us or won’t trust us with our baby. Often we will turn to Google when we have questions about postnatal depression, but that can give us lots of different and conflicting answers which can be very confusing and scary. We’ve rounded up 10 of the most popular searches on postnatal depression to try and provide some answers.
How Does Postnatal Depression Affect Others?
It’s not just Mums who can experience postnatal depression – Dads and partners can too.
When one of our loved ones is experiencing any type of depression, it’s natural that we will worry about them and want to help them – our friends and family will be similar. If they know that we are living with postnatal depression then it’s likely that they will want to help us in any way that they’re able to. Depression can affect our ability to practice self-care, and we might need others to help us to look after ourselves, and to assist with elements of our lives.
With postnatal depression, we also have a baby to consider. We might struggle to look after our baby when we’re feeling particularly low. This can mean that we need others to help us to care for our baby. We might need our friends and family to look after our baby every now and again to give us a few hours of respite, or to allow us to attend appointments. They could also support us with more practical things. There is absolutely no shame in needing some support from other people, we all need support from time to time.
How Does Postnatal Depression Occur?
We usually experience it in the first weeks or months after giving birth. It’s caused by a combination of hormonal changes that happen after having a baby, social, emotional, and psychological factors. This could include things like lack of support, difficult childhood experiences, low self-esteem, experiences of abuse, stressful living conditions, and major life events. Postnatal depression is more common if we’ve had depression during our pregnancy, or if we have a family history of depression.
How Does Postnatal Depression Affect The Mother?
Many symptoms of postnatal depression are similar to those of depression and can be experienced by Dads and partners too. This can include things like experiencing low mood, having a lack of enjoyment in things, feeling tired all the time, struggling to sleep at night and feeling sleepy during the day, having no appetite, feeling irritable, feeling guilty and hopeless, struggling to make decisions or to concentrate on things, isolating ourselves, and thoughts of hurting ourselves. Some symptoms, such as struggling to bond with our baby, feeling unable to look after our baby, and having frightening thoughts, such as of hurting our baby, are unique to postnatal depression.
Experiencing postnatal depression can be really difficult, frustrating, and scary. But having postnatal depression does not mean that we are a ‘bad parent’, it just means that we have an illness that we need some support with. With 1 in 10 women and men experiencing postnatal depression, it’s important to remember that we’re not alone.
How Does Postnatal Depression Affect Attachments?
Postnatal depression can negatively affect the attachment between our baby and us – our baby might develop an insecure attachment with us. This is because depression can cause us to struggle when engaging and interacting with our baby. It can also mean that we struggle to tune in to our baby’s needs. These things do not make us a bad parent, they just mean that we might need some more support with our baby.
How Does Postnatal Depression Affect The Baby?
Our difficulties in responding to our baby’s needs when we’re depressed, can affect our baby. They may be upset when they’re with us, or not want to be with us, because they have learned that we don’t always respond to their needs. Difficulties with sleeping might occur. Our baby could show developmental delays, and reach developmental milestones later than other babies. Colic can be more common in babies who have parents with postnatal depression, too.
How Does Postnatal Depression Affect Bonding With The Baby?
Although there is a relationship between postnatal depression and problems bonding with our baby, it’s not the only cause of bonding problems. Around 32% of Mum’s in the UK have difficulties bonding with their babies, whereas only 12% of us experience postnatal depression. The reason that postnatal depression can contribute to problems when bonding with our baby, is because it can mean that we struggle to tune into our baby’s needs and may not interact and engage with our baby as much as we would if we weren’t living with depression.
How Does Postnatal Depression Affect The Child?
As a baby turns into a toddler and a child, if they continue to have an insecure attachment with a parent, they may develop some problems. They may struggle to be independent, be less likely to interact with others, have trouble accepting discipline, be more aggressive, struggle at school, and have a higher risk of mental health problems.
However, it’s important to remember that depression is treatable and that if we do live with postnatal depression or depression, then it does not necessarily mean that our child will go on to develop any of these problems. Additionally, if our child does develop these problems, they may be due to other factors and aren’t necessarily a direct result of our depression.
How Does Postnatal Depression Feel?
Having postnatal depression can feel really scary. We might be filled with worry over whether we’re looking after our baby properly and be weighed down by guilt that we’re not doing enough. Frightening thoughts can take over our brain – thoughts about hurting our baby or ourselves. Emptiness could fill us up, leaving no space to be happy about the new life that we’ve created. Anger, sadness, and a feeling of hollowness could replace the joy that we might expect to feel. The ‘shoulds’ appear time and time again – we should be doing more, should be feeling better, should be socialising with other new parents, should love our child more than anything else in the world, should be enjoying the experience of being a new parent… all these shoulds can add up leaving us feeling totally overwhelmed, inadequate and useless. We will often feel completely isolated and alone. It can be very difficult to reach out for support, or to tell anyone how we feel because we can feel so ashamed about the way we feel.
How Is Postnatal Depression Treated?
There are different treatment options for postnatal depression. We could try talking to our family and friends about how we feel and ask them if they’re able to offer us any support. Sleep can be difficult when we have a new baby, but sleeping and resting as much as possible can help. It can be hard to make time for ourselves when we have a new baby, too, but if our partner or a family member or friend is able to look after our baby every now and again, then taking this time to do something that we enjoy can help to lift our mood. Exercising, if we’re able to, and eating a healthy diet can also help.
We might feel that we need to reach out for some professional help. Our GP or health visitor are usually the first port-of-call for this. They should be able to offer some advice for things that they feel could help. This might include a self-help course, talking therapy and/or antidepressants.
How Is Postnatal Depression Diagnosed?
Sometimes it can be difficult to recognise whether what we’re experiencing is ‘baby blues’, which can be a response to giving birth, or postnatal depression. ‘Baby blues’ don’t normally last for more than two weeks after giving birth. If our symptoms carry on after two weeks or start later than two weeks after giving birth, then we could be experiencing postnatal depression. It can start any time in the first year after we give birth. If we are worried that we’re experiencing symptoms of postnatal depression, such as feeling persistently low, having no energy and feeling tired all of the time, struggling to sleep at night, having a lack of enjoyment in things, struggling to bond with our baby, isolating ourselves from other people, struggling to concentrate and make decisions, and having frightening thoughts, such as thoughts of hurting our baby, then it’s important that we speak to our health visitor or GP about these symptoms. They can then assess whether we have postnatal depression, and what help and support we might need.
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