Normal Exhaustion or Post natal Depression?
Everyone knows having a baby is exhausting, and most of us anticipate that there may be moments where we feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.
Most women will have had a few tearful days in the first few weeks, often labelled the ‘Baby Blues’. This is perfectly normal as our hormones readjust, and for many this will settle with support and rest, and then life will move into a new phase.
But for a significant number of new mums, this feeling doesn’t pass, or it returns at a later stage.
As many as 10-15% of women suffer some degree of postnatal depression, making it a very common occurrence, but it is rarely talked about. More importantly, many mums suffer and don’t realise that what they are experiencing is not the normal exhaustion of parenthood, but something more, and that there is the potential to find it all easier with good care, support and treatment where necessary.
So, how can you tell if you are suffering from postnatal depression? There are many signs and symptoms that might indicate that you may be struggling more than you need to.
Emotionally, you may feel more tearful or sad and low for no apparent reason. Or have a feeling that you mustn’t start to cry or you may not stop!
Perhaps you are over sensitive to friends or relatives comments about how you choose to do things for your little one.
For some mums, there is a feeling of detachment, a sense of suspending
emotion in order to just get through the day. Feeling numb and unable to make contact with others, even though you might like to. Perhaps even feeling distant from your partner and baby, as you struggle with emotions that are difficult to understand.
There may also be feelings of guilt or a fear that you are not a good mum. Perhaps a sense that everyone else has it all under control, and you are the only one that isn’t coping, or guilt that you ought to be feeling happy at this special time.
Postnatal depression can also show itself as anger and irritability. This is often directed at a partner or loved one, and this too can lead to feelings of guilt, when we have taken our feelings out on the very person we rely on for love and support.
For me a phrase that struck a cord when I had postnatal depression, was ‘irrational irritability’. I could get furious over tiny things and could feel embarrassed and ashamed afterwards for my apparently ridiculous over-reactions!
Other signs that indicate postnatal depression include unfounded anxiety about your own or your baby’s health. Having difficulty sleeping despite being tired, loss of appetite and interest in food, or losing a lot of weight without trying. For some mums poor memory and concentration becomes a problem and for others there can be an inability to make decisions.
For some women there may be fantasies or thoughts of wanting to run away or escape the responsibility and in more serious cases thoughts of death
or even contemplation of suicide.
If you feel any of these things, the most important thing is to talk to someone. You are not alone, and things will get better when you have the right support and help.
For many women, the diagnosis of postnatal depression is actually a
relief, because it opens up the understanding that something can be done about it and the situation will get better!
There are many different options for treating postnatal depression, which I will discuss in another post, but the most important thing is to talk to someone. If you can't talk to anyone close to you, perhaps make contact with one of the organisations listed below, but don’t go through it alone, there are people who are happy to help, you just need to ask!