• Samantha Lehmann

What is Postnatal Depression? - Part 1

Symptoms of Postnatal Depression

Postnatal Depression (PND) can develop during pregnancy, immediately after birth or even a year after giving birth. Although there are some risk factors that increase your chances of developing PND, PND does not discriminate and, unlikely as it may seem, even men can suffer from it.

This is the first of three articles which explore PND.

PND does not manifest in exactly the same way for everybody. Often the person suffering from it does such a good job of hiding the symptoms that even those closest to them do not realise they have it.

The symptoms and triggers for the women in this article were unique to them. Their backgrounds, beliefs, upbringing and life experience all differed; the one thing they had in common was PND.

ZOE

“I hate even saying this, let alone writing it, but I came to resent my daughter. I did not want to be with her. I found her exhausting and I could not bond with her. She was draining me of every ounce of energy and patience that I had. Throughout the day I wanted to run. I would sit there and think about whether I could just get in the car and drive away.”

Zoe’s PND came from left field. Two years before, she had given birth to twin boys. She had bonded easily with them and cherished the time they spent together. During her second pregnancy, she suffered nausea and vomiting around the clock as well as a condition called symphysis pubis dysfunction which meant she had to use a walking frame just to get around. But, even with all of this, she expected to bond with her daughter once she was born. It didn’t happen. Instead, she was caught up in a maelstrom of emotions that threatened to overwhelm her and her family.

She says of that time, “I missed my sons so much, even though they were right there. I resented my daughter for taking away my time with them. I was pushing my husband’s buttons. I resented him for going to work each day. When he would snap, I would scream at him and shake because I wanted to physically harm him. I wanted to tell him to f*** off.”

Zoe had been diagnosed with clinical depression when she was fourteen so she knew what depression felt like, but because she still felt love, affection and joy toward her twin boys, she didn’t realise she was suffering from PND.

SARAH

Sarah’s PND symptoms manifested differently to Zoe’s. She was constantly anxious, isolated and on edge. Well-meaning advice from other people only added to Sarah’s anxiety and insecurity and made her question everything she was doing. She had contact with a Maternal Health Nurse, but the nurse was focused on breastfeeding issues and never picked up on Sarah’s anxiety.

“I was afraid that when the baby cried, I wouldn’t know what to do. I felt like crying all the time. I put myself under pressure. I thought I should be able to do this. I should be more competent. No one understood what I was going through.”

BROOKE

Brooke’s symptoms began during pregnancy. Although she had moments when she felt wonderful, it only took a small thing to make her feel insecure and send her plummeting into depression and anxiety.

“I was sensitive and fragile. I felt self-conscious about my body and how it was changing. At times I felt out of control of my body.”

When her baby was born, she was full of self-doubt and lacked confidence in her mothering abilities. She had very high expectations of herself but felt she wasn’t living up to them. She felt like a fraud when she went out on playdates, trying to pretend everything was fine and that she was coping when inside she was crumbling.

TINA

In contrast to Brooke’s experience, Tina had a very positive and healthy pregnancy, but things took a turn for the worse when her baby was born.

“I had terrible anger management issues. I lacked a bond with my baby and I was grieving the loss of my life before kids. I couldn’t see the good in anything. I couldn’t smile or laugh.”

Tine struggled with the way in which her life had irrevocably changed and had to learn to love her baby.

Many people are surprised to learn how prevalent PND is. Often, people suffering from PND do not even realise they have it. If you or a loved one identify with some of the following symptoms, it might be time to seek help.

  • Difficulty sleeping or broken sleep that is not related to your baby’s sleep patterns.

  • Ongoing tiredness or exhaustion that cannot be solely attributed to being a new mum.

  • Changes in appetite.

  • Being unable to see the good in anything and/or losing interest in things you once enjoyed.

  • Being constantly angry, moody, anxious, sad or irritable.

  • Being afraid to look after your baby.

  • Feeling unable or resistant to communicating with your partner, family or friends.

  • An increase in alcohol consumption.

  • Taking drugs as a method of coping with the demands of parenthood.

  • Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your baby.

  • Feeling constantly stressed, sometimes accompanied by headaches and/or muscle tension.

  • Feeling alone and isolated.

  • Feeling like no one understands what you are going through.

If you have these symptoms, or you know someone who has, encourage them to seek help from a medical professional. See the links at the end of this article for further online information.

In Post Natal Depression - Part 2 we will look at what each of these women did to resolve their Post-Natal Depression and how you can support a loved one who is suffering from PND.

If you are looking for a tangible way to show a loved one you care, you might like to purchase one of our Empathy Gift Boxes which contain items that have been carefully chosen to support people suffering grief, anxiety and depression.

https://healthyfamilies.beyondblue.org.au/pregnancy-and-new-parents/maternal-mental-health-and-wellbeing/depression

https://www.karitane.com.au/page/for-parents/adjusting-to-parenthood

https://www.panda.org.au/info-support

https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/how-is-dad-going

https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/video-stories-library/jessica-rowe-mum-journalist-author-mental-health-advocate

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