When a child is born, the mother and father are often inundated with congratulations, cards and visitors wishing to meet the new addition. In amongst all the excitement however, it can often be hard to identify if a mother (or father) is struggling with their mental health – however statistics tell us that 1 in 10 women experience symptoms of postnatal depression within the first year of their child’s life, with many fathers also suffering. But, despite its prevalence, there still seems to be a level of awkwardness surrounding this topic, however as we will argue, it is something that should be spoken about more.
Postnatal depression is characterised by the usual symptoms of depression – persistent low mood, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating etc, lasting more than 2 weeks. It can start any time in the first year after birth, however is most likely to begin in the first 6 months. One of the reasons postnatal depression often goes under the radar is that in many ways its symptoms are also likely in new mothers who aren’t depressed. For example, with a new baby in the house it is unlikely that any mother is getting sufficient sleep, or feeling particularly energised, and it may not be surprising that they are choosing to stay in more, or turning down nights out. However, it is important to consider that these may all also be warning signs of postnatal depression, and that if they continue for long periods, this could have a detrimental effect on both the parent and their child, not to mention their other relationships.
For many women, they do not even notice postnatal depression in themselves, especially if this is their first time having a child, or if their symptoms develop gradually. Further, many women have admitted to feeling ashamed of their feelings, where they often report intense guilt that their child is not providing them with unlimited joy, such that they repress or disguise their feelings. This guilt is completely normal in those with postnatal depression, however it is something that is also completely unnecessary. No one should ever feel guilty for how they feel, and being open and honest about your feelings is the best way to ensure they don’t continue. In many ways, feeling this guilt is testament to how much you love and care for your child – but the best way to care for them is to also care for yourself.
Often, women worry about coming forward about their postnatal depression in the fear that they will be considered ungrateful, heartless, or even crazy – but it is important to consider that this is far from reality. Medical professionals realise that it is very common, and empathise with this position, and contrary to common belief, your baby will not be taken away from you, nor your parenting questioned if you admit to needing help. Postnatal depression has been around for as long as women have been having babies, but for some reason it is one of the least spoken about mental concerns. Although, when you begin to talk and ask about it, you begin to realise just how common it is. You will also begin to realise that it does not last forever – and that many of the mothers and fathers you aspire to be like have fought with it and won. Just like any other mental complaint, postnatal depression can become manageable and often goes away with the correct treatment, it is just a case of seeking it.
So, why aren’t we talking about postnatal depression? If so many women (and men) are struggling, and there are simple solutions out there – why is it still a sensitive subject? The truth is, there is not a straightforward answer. As with most mental health issues, it is something that takes time, openness and understanding before people begin to completely understand it, but eventually they will – as many people already do. And remember, you are never alone – with 1 in 10 women experiencing symptoms every year, it is unlikely that you will have to travel further than the birthing ward to find someone who knows what you are going through. So start the conversation. Talk about it with someone you trust. Talk about it with your family, colleagues, and friends. Spread the word that postnatal depression is common, treatable and doesn’t make you a bad parent. Because being open about how you are feeling may help not just you, but your child, your sister, your best friend, or any woman who has gone through it themselves.
Full symptoms of postnatal depression can be found here
Please let us know of your experiences, by commenting and sharing – and let other women know that it’s okay if they are struggling. Talk to Someone. Talk to Us.
On our Dr Julian app you can find lots of therapists who specialize in post-natal depression and other conditions. To see our full list of therapists and read their biographies see here