Bringing a baby home is one of life’s biggest milestones but along with the excitement, there are nappies, baby sick and sleeping schedules to adjust to and the realisation that
If you are a mama that is struggling, know you are not alone and that it’s very common to get the ‘baby blues’ but if it is prolonged it may be depression.
Lack of sleep, post-pregnancy recovery and a complete change of life can all lead to one thing: burnout and melancholy.
But even if sleep is in your favour and your birth was relatively straightforward many new mums can still feel an overwhelming crush of sadness after giving birth.
Days, weeks and months can slip by while you are caring for your newborn which can leave little time for yourself or doing things you enjoy.
But what exactly is post-natal depression?
While the NHS says post-natal depression affects one in every 10 women, it’s important to look out for signs and seek help as soon as possible.
Early symptoms include lack of energy, feeling tired all the time, hopelessness, problems concentrating, difficulty bonding with your baby, withdrawing, tearful and even frightening thoughts.
Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind, says that a ‘perinatal’ mental health problem can be experienced any time from becoming pregnant up to a year after you give birth.
‘This may be a new mental health problem or an episode of a problem you’ve experienced in the past. Examples of perinatal mental health problems include postnatal depression and postnatal post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).’
Postnatal depression can rear its head during roughly the first year after giving birth but some mums can experience it when their children hit two.
As with all mental health problems, symptoms and signs vary from person to person, but some of the common ones for postnatal depression may include feeling low and tearful, hopeless about the future and guilty or worthless. These symptoms even may change on different days or weeks and there can be no specific pattern.
So what can you do if you are experiencing post-natal depression?
Stephen Buckley says to start by seeing if your symptoms are interfering with your day-to-day life for more than a couple of weeks. If so, it’s important to seek help right away.
‘Try and speak to someone you trust about how you’re feeling, such as a GP, friend or family member. Your GP may be able to suggest support groups for new parents in your area so you can discuss your feelings with others going through similar experiences.
‘They might also refer you to services such as talking therapies, or offer you medication.
‘The symptoms of perinatal mental health problems can change from day to day, so it can sometimes be difficult for your doctor to understand what you’re experiencing and offer the right support.
‘If you don’t feel like you’re getting the help you need, you can bring this up with a health professional or bring someone you trust along to your appointment for support. Alternatively, you might want the support of an advocate there.’
So is there any treatment for postnatal depression?
In short, yes, there are many different treatments for postnatal depression and with professional guidance, these can be curated for your specific needs.
Talking therapies is popular with postnatal depression and having that weekly meeting with a trained therapist can help relieve and combat some of the depression.
Self-help may also work with doing things you enjoy such as watching films, going out, catching up on sleep and any other hobbies that you frequently enjoy.
If your depression is particularly severe and long then a GP may recommend anti-depressants which can be given as a course or for the long term depending on the severity.
Is there anything I can try at home?
While it’s probably the last thing you feel like doing, exercise has been proven to have great effects on physical and mental health.
It can help with better sleep, self-esteem, mood and energy levels. You could start off slow and try a short walk which will give some fresh air and movement to the body.
And the best bit? If you don’t feel like leaving home you can always try something indoors with lots of free workout videos online.
Eat Well, Feel Well
When energy is low, it can feel all-encompassing to cook for yourself, especially with a little one in tow. It may feel easier just to indulge in instant snacks or have a few glasses of wine, but alcohol is a natural depressant which can often leave you feeling worse the next day.
If time is of the essence (hey, isn’t it always with a baby?) then you could try some healthy instant meal boxes kits delivered to your door or food prep in batches to freeze, so you only have to cook once and can make several meals last throughout the week.
More so, if you don’t have time for much cooking then you can always try something even quicker like yoghurt and fruit or veggies and dips.
When you are low, self-esteem can hit rock bottom and feelings of isolation and sadness can become overwhelming. Talking to someone can really take the edge off things.
Whether it’s a trained professional or just a friend or loved one, even just checking in with someone can help lift your mood and give a little distraction.