Postnatal depression is a crippling and heartbreaking condition for new mums, but it’s also one that too often goes undiagnosed.
If you think you might be suffering from postnatal depression, then that’s probably what has landed you here on this website. This is a good sign, as it means you are starting on your journey to getting help if you do need it.
The scary thing about postnatal depression is that it can strike anyone. People who have previously suffered from some form of depression or anxiety are of course at greater risk, but the horrible truth about PND is that it does not discriminate.
One in 10 women will suffer from it, and it is thought that many mothers who are suffering from postnatal depression are not coming forward to report it.
Why PND goes undiagnosed
There are several reasons why you may feel unwilling to seek help for PND, including:
- Embarrassment. You might feel like you will be labelled “mad” or that people will treat you differently. There is nothing at all to be ashamed about. PND is an illness of the mind that needs treating. Many others suffer from depression.
- Fear your baby might be taken away. No one will take your baby away for asking for help. Remember that any responsible adult asks for help when they are out of their depth. There is zero reason for your GP or health visitor to raise concerns about your fitness to parent just because you have said you have postnatal depression.
- Denial. It’s more than just a river in Egypt! You try to explain away the exhausting symptoms of depression by blaming it on motherhood in general.
- Worry about your loved ones. You don’t want to upset your family by telling them you have what feels like a very scary and overwhelming condition. As a result, you bury your head in the sand and put on a good front for those around you. But your loved ones want you happy! Hiding how you feel can really impact on your relationships in the long run.
- Confusion. You aren’t sure what PND would really feel like and think because you are not sobbing all day it can’t be depression. You may also be some time down the line after having your baby and think it can’t be postnatal depression as you are technically no longer postnatal. Many ladies go too long suffering from depression without seeking treatment. Not everyone feels it in the same way.
There are signs and symptoms of postnatal depression to look out for, and often they are things you may not have even realised could be answered by depression.
Check out this list of 11 signs of postnatal depression and don’t forget that you can discuss any of these with a GP without judgement.
IMPORTANT: You may only feel a few of these symptoms of postnatal depression. Not everyone suffers depression in the same way. Please do not see this as a box ticking list where you need to fulfil every criteria in order to be suffering from depression. If you are only feeling one of these symptoms but it is consuming your life, then you can still have depression. But if you are feeling every single one, don’t feel like your depression must be really serious and start to panic. We all feel depression differently. The important thing in the steps to recovery is to first accept there is a problem and ask for help.
Feeling sad and low most of all of the time
This is the “classic” symptom of depression. You feel sad all of the time. Your sadness is all-encompassing and leaves you feeling so low you struggle to get yourself motivated to do anything at all.
Your sadness might manifest itself in a lot of crying. On the other hand, it may not at all! You can be feeling utterly devastated on the inside, but put on an amazing front for everyone around you.
You may feel extremely self-critical and like you can do nothing right. You might feel your baby would be better off without you, or that you are failing your child in some way.
PND can cause you to feel extreme low-self esteem and self-worth.
We all have days where we think, “wow I buggered that up”. But, we should not be feeling this way all day every day, or more than once per day.
If you have feelings of utter despair at how useless you are, and feel like everyone would be better off without you, this is not right! Your baby needs you.
Speak to your doctor!
Taking no enjoyment from your life
Things that used to be amazing fun are no longer fun at all. You may struggle to laugh at things, and when you get a chance to take a break from motherhood to do something you usually enjoy you take zero pleasure from it.
Lack of interest in the world around you
PND may cause you to lose interest in everything around you.
This may include struggling to bond and engage with your baby. This does not mean you do not love your baby, but you may not feel like you have fully bonded with them in the way you expected or wanted to.
Little things worry you so much that you cannot stop thinking about them. You may obsess over potential dangers that could harm your baby, or worry over things you should be doing.
Anxiety can be a condition you suffer from separate to depression, but it can also be part of your PND range of symptoms. You will need to speak to your doctor about your anxiety and how it is impacting on your life to know what the best help will be.
You’ve just had a baby, so tiredness goes hand-in-hand with that.
But postnatal depression causes a kind of bone deep tiredness that goes beyond the physical.
You feel tired all of the time, even when you’ve managed to get a reasonable night’s sleep.
Struggling to get to sleep
You feel tired, but you cannot get to sleep. Insomnia could be caused by the worried that may be consuming you as part of depression or the physical impact of being depressed.
Visiting your doctor and discussing your symptoms means you can get help for all of the range of issues your PND may be causing you, including lack of sleep.
Quick to anger and feeling short-tempered
When you’re tired, you lash out. So this is another symptom that is often explained away by post-baby blues or tiredness.
However when your personality has changed to such a degree that people are noticing your irritability and it’s impacting on your relationships, this could be linked to PND.
Withdrawing from people
You don’t want to leave the house or meet with other people. You feel worried about speaking to people you know and have no interest in socialising.
PND can cause you to feel like you would rather be dead, or that your baby would be better off without you. This is not the case, and it’s one of the most devastating seeds that PND can plant in your mind.
Nothing is worth losing your life over. Always seek help. If you are struggling to find the courage to speak to a GP, speak to a friend or relative first. There are also some amazing free helplines you could try calling so you can speak to an impartial stranger first.
Thoughts of harming your baby
This one is extremely scary. It needs to be emphasised that just because you feel this way, it does not mean you WILL harm your baby.
If you have felt this way, do not let it put you off from telling a doctor or health visitor the complete truth about what is going on with you. They want to help, and you are not the only one who has ever felt this way. Many mothers with PND experience this type of extreme feeling. Speak to someone and get the help that you need.
Will postnatal depression go away on its own?
For some people the symptoms may lessen with time. As babies grow up they sleep more, giving you a chance to gain back some strength with a good night’s sleep.
While the symptoms of your PND could become manageable, and almost to the point where you can ignore and live with it, there may be triggers later in your life that bring it back again.
You may have PND with one baby, which remains untreated, and then have another only for the symptoms to come back full force.
The point is that the quicker you seek help and are open with your GP, who WILL be understanding, the quicker you can begin to recover.
What are the treatments for postnatal depression
- Therapy such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
There are a range of options for medication, and what you may be offering will depend on the severity of your depression as well as your doctor’s own opinion.
Discuss potential side effects of the medication your doctor proposes giving you before accepting the prescription. Try to be fully informed of the pros and cons of all different types of antidepressant before you decide which will work best for you.
There are antidepressants that do not interfere with breastfeeding, so do not allow this to worry you.
I hope this post has been useful and that if you are wrestling with the decision to seek help, that you will take that step now. Talk to a health professional who can help diagnose your symptoms accurately and take you through the next steps for treatment.
An important thing to know about postnatal depression is:
It feels like the end of the world now. But this is a chapter in your life, not the entire story. Seek help and keep turning the pages. Soon you will be moving on to a happier chapter.