Post Natal Depression (PND) is the name given to a mood disorder that can occur in women following childbirth. It is a clinical depression, and often arises during the first year after giving birth.
The onset of PND tends to be gradual and may persist for many months, and in some cases years. PND is often not recognised by women, their partners, family and friends due to their lack of knowledge or understanding of the illness. Some women pretend to cope with motherhood, as they do not understand they may be suffering from a mental illness and need professional help.
Each woman's experience of PND is different and not all women will feel the same. Most women with PND will find the severity of their symptoms is fairly constant. The symptoms may include:
- more bad feelings than good
- feeling exhausted, empty, sad or tearful
- feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks
- lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities
- lack of or increase in level of self care
- lack or or increase in appetite
- struggling with memory, concentration or decision making
- feeling inadequate or a failure as a mother and/or partner
- feeling guilty, ashamed or worthless
- feeling a sense of hopelessness about the future
- insomnia, excess sleep and/or nightmares
- avoiding contact with family and friends or fear of being alone
- withdrawal from social contact
- fear for their child(ren) or of their child(ren)
- fear of harming child(ren) or self
- decreased sexual desire
It is also possible to experience depression during pregnancy - this is called 'antenatal depression'. Sometimes if antenatal depression is left unchecked it can continue after the birth and become post natal depression. If you are pregnant and experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, ask for help now. The sooner you get help, the easier it will be for you, your partner and your baby.
What causes it?
Post Natal Depression can affect any mother, however there is an increased risk if any of the following have been experienced.
- depression during pregnancy
- unmet expectations of pregnancy, birth and motherhood
- complications with pregnancy and/or delivery
- personal or family history of mental illness
- relationship/partner difficulties
- stressful/significant life changes
- single parenthood, coping on your own
- lack of practical and emotional support networks
- physical, regional or cultural isolation
- prolonged baby blues
- problems with baby's health
- having an unsettled baby (e.g. easily upset, difficulties with feeding and sleeping
- difficulties with breastfeeding (this may affect confidence and result in feelings of guilt and failure
- sleep deprivation
- unplanned/mistimed pregnancy
- socio-economic disadvantage
- alcohol/drug abuse
- What can you do?
If you have been diagnosed with Post Natal Depression or can identify with the listed symptoms you may like to:
- ask for help from health professionals, i.e. child health nurse, GP, obstetrician, counselor or women's health clinic
- try to avoid isolating yourself
- increase support networks
- join a PND support group (talk to your Community Child Health Nurse)
- communicate with your partner, supporting family and friends about PND - they are often more willing and able to provide emotional and practical support when they understand what you are going through - ask them to read this booklet in case of need, have your support contact numbers readily accessible.