Postnatal Depression (PND) can be caused by a mixture of hormones and new, challenging circumstances. Anyone can experience PND – it is normal and does not make you a bad parent, but it is important to seek help when you need it.

Don’t panic now – there’s nothing to suggest that you or your partner will experience PND. Childbirth and introducing a child into the world can be a rewarding though demanding and overwhelming experience. PND can occur at any point in the child’s first 12 months. Changes to your mindset and mental health are understandable, and with the right help, they are manageable.

Am I at risk of Postnatal Depression?

Factors that may increase the risk of experiencing PND include:

  • Traumatic birth experience or post-birth complications
  • Perfectionist personality type
  • Previous/family history of mental health issues
  • Other life changes early in the newborn’s life, i.e. moving to a new house or relationship struggles
  • Health issues with baby
  • Lack of external support network (family, friends, counsellors)

If you feel you are at risk of developing PND, be proactive and talk to your doctor or therapist before your due date. We can’t always predict our feelings ahead of time – sometimes PND may feel sudden or unexpected. Look out for yourself and be mindful of your headspace postpartum.

What are the signs and symptoms that I should look out for?

Some of the common symptoms for PND include:

  • Feelings of guilt
  • Sense of isolation
  • Low self-esteem
  • Low appetite
  • Reduced sex drive
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Pessimistic thoughts
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Panic attacks/Anxiety
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Trouble sleeping when given the chance
  • Feeling isolated or lonely
  • Withdrawal from people or activities you used to enjoy
  • Feelings of disconnect with baby
  • Irritability
  • Lack of self-care

Many of these symptoms are a normal part of bouncing back from pregnancy or adjusting to parenthood, be it your first or fifth time. Feeling some of these things does not necessarily mean you are depressed. If you are struggling for two weeks or more, let your doctor know what’s going on. This checklist could help you understand your current mental health.

Can I reduce the risk of Postnatal Depression?

You may be able to minimise the risk of PND by:

  • Writing down or talking about your feelings, good and bad
  • Maintaining a safe exercise routine
  • If you have a partner, communicate your expectations and needs to each other
  • Healthy eating
  • Joining a parent group
  • Practising a positive and resilient mindset/mindfulness

Depression does not mean failure as a parent

Experiencing PND does not make you a bad parent. All sorts of hormones are released during childbirth, and new challenges for both parents can take their toll. Mum’s body is still going through a lot, and the world of both parents just got turned upside down in wonderful and hard ways.

Should you be suffering from PND, ask for help. Talk to people you trust about the negative things you are feeling; your loved ones are a valuable, judgement-free support resource. PND rarely lasts forever, and it can be managed and treated.

How is Postnatal Depression treated?

Talk to your doctor or therapist about diagnosing and managing PND. Talk therapy and counselling may help you work through PND as with other mental health issues. Generally, medication is avoided, if possible, if a mother is breastfeeding. However, medication is not out of the question and in some cases, is deemed appropriate. PND should be assessed on a case-by-case basis by healthcare professionals.

You are not alone

This article is not a diagnostic tool. Always seek professional advice if you are worried about your mental health. You can also consult these Australian resources for extra information and support in addition to your healthcare professionals.

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