Postnatal depression is a relatively common condition experienced by parents within their post-birth year. Postnatal depression (also called postpartum depression) can be described as low feelings that persist and disrupt your normal life and emotions following birth.

What is postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression can’t easily be characterised because it and childbirth are different experiences for everyone. Generally postnatal depression can be understood as a persistence for two or more weeks of negative feelings about yourself, your pregnancy and the birth. These feelings disrupt you from performing regular lifestyle behaviours and fulfilling basic needs, which is why it’s important to look for the signs in yourself and others.

Postnatal depression can occur to partners as well as mothers, although it is far more common in mothers with a prevalence rate of almost one in seven mums in Australia.

What are the signs of postnatal depression?

Although it can be hard to look inward and self-recognise, some of the signs to watch out for include:

  • a low appetite, or disinterest in self-care
  • trouble falling asleep or excessive and persistent fatigue
  • feeling like you are an imposter
  • feelings of failure and inadequacy
  • a lack of interest in things you normally enjoy
  • withdrawal from those around you
  • unexplained crying and feelings of melancholy
  • irritability and anger
  • a disconnect with your baby.

Diagnosing postnatal depression

If you or someone you know might have postnatal depression, it’s important to seek professional help. Sometimes a questionnaire called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale will be given to help determine the similarity of experiences and feelings with anxiety and depression.

Childbirth brings with it tremendous change – not just physical, but also emotional and mental. Like with any big life change, different people respond in many different ways and for many different reasons.

Postnatal depression is not a failure

And talking about it is not an admission of guilt. Discussing your feelings with someone is a statement of fact. While your feelings may be a symptom of something else, they are no less valid if they are simply related to your experience of pregnancy and childbirth.

Managing and treating postnatal depression

Postnatal depression can be addressed through the support of those around you. Family and friends can help you to navigate the challenges of early parenthood, but sometimes more professional help is needed.

A range of strategies and therapies can assist in navigating this challenging period, and these can be accessed through doctors, counsellors, community health centres and psychologists.

If you think you – or someone you know – might be suffering from postnatal depression or anxiety, please take that first step and reach out for support. PANDA or Beyond Blue are waiting to help.