Postpartum depression, also known as post-natal depression, affects around 10% to 40% of new mothers.
Ironically, despite its prevalence, there still exists a great stigma around postpartum depression – the feeling that you’re so overwhelmed or depressed by motherhood, that you have no interest in caring for your child, or feel completely unable to. It’s a mental illness that women are afraid to talk about or even admit to, yet it affects millions every year.
Postpartum depression is incredibly common and highly treatable, and if you’re experiencing it, you should know that there are very effective ways to combat your suffering. Here are six essential things to know.
6 facts about postpartum depression
1. Postpartum depression can take up to 12 months to set in
While many women begin to experience symptoms within the first three months after their baby’s birth, symptoms can occur any time within the first year after giving birth.
2. There are many symptoms and you may experience several or only one or two
Postpartum depression may make you feel like you’re disconnected from your baby – according to sufferers, this is a particularly common emotion. You may also experience mental fogginess, confusion, changes in sleeping patterns, changes in eating patterns, and feelings of disorientation.
You may be teary, anxious and/or irritable, and you may experience one or more of the following: feelings of inadequacy, helplessness and/or hopelessness; despondency; over-sensitivity; numbness; sadness; irrational fears about yourself and/or your baby; suicidal thoughts and/or a feeling of loss of control.
Here is an excellent article written by a mom who experienced the illness first-hand. She’s written this blog post in what she calls ‘plain mama English’, and as you read it, you may find yourself nodding along. If this is the case, you may be suffering from the illness.
3. There is no single cause of postpartum depression
One or more of the following factors may trigger the onset of the illness:
- Lack of support or perceived lack of support
- A traumatic birth
- Financial, work or other stresses
- Being a perfectionist
- Feelings of loneliness
- Poor sleep after childbirth
- A previous history of depression and/or anxiety disorders
- A poor relationship with the father of the baby
- Previous experience of postpartum depression, which can put your risk at upwards of 75%
4. You can’t just ‘snap out of it’
Some people may minimise it by calling it the ‘baby blues’ and may tell you to ‘snap out of it’, ‘pull yourself together’ or ‘be grateful for what you have’. None of these are helpful or effective ways of dealing with depression. And yes: post-natal depression IS a type of depression and it requires proper medical intervention and care. It is not something you can treat yourself at home or overcome simply by changing your mindset or outlook on life.
5. Three things are recommended in treating postpartum depression
According to the Post Natal Depression Support Association, the most effective ways to treat the illness are through medication (like anti-depressants), psychotherapy (to address underlying psychological factors and triggers), and individual or group support. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with other women who’ve experienced the same thing can be immensely comforting and encouraging, and will help you feel like you’re not alone.
6. Help is available wherever you are
If you think you may be suffering from post-natal depression, start by getting in touch with your doctor, ob-gyn or your child’s paediatrician as soon as possible. Any of these medical professionals will be able to help you and if necessary, direct you to the right counsellors or doctors for treatment.
Remember: there is no shame in needing help, and every reason to get it. You deserve peace of mind so that you can give the very best to yourself and your family.
Learn more at the Post Natal Depression Support Association (PNDSA): http://www.pndsa.org.za/, where you’ll also find support and many helpful resources.
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