There are a huge array of emotions when it comes to pregnancy and having a new baby and whilst the majority of these are positive; it is during this time of life that women are most likely to experience anxiety and depression.
When these mood changes develop DURING pregnancy we refer to them as antenatal depression and when they develop POST delivery of the baby we refer to them as PND.
PND and/or anxiety are episodes lasting two or more weeks of sadness, irritability or anxiety after the birth of a baby. Symptoms usually develop within the first year of the baby’s life. Other symptoms may include:-
- lack of interest in life or pleasure in life
- difficulty sleeping
- increase or decrease in energy
- increase or decrease in appetite
- difficulty getting up in the morning
- lack of socialisation
- tearfulness and angriness
- thoughts of self-harm or harm to the baby or other children.
More than 1 in 7 new mums will experience PND.
This is very different to the “baby blues.” The baby blues typically occur on day 3 to 10 after having a baby and last for 2 - 3 days. Approximately 80% of women experience the baby blues where they feel anxious, irritable and emotionally labile. In the majority of cases, this resolves without any intervention at all. We do not understand exactly why this happens.
PND, however does not resolve without intervention.
So what do we do?
The first step is to recognise that there is a problem; that the mood has been low for more than two weeks and to see your GP. Your GP will confirm the diagnosis, get you linked in with support groups including breastfeeding support groups (as this is a big form of stress for a lot of new mums), a mothers’ group, parents’ group, psychologist and will consider whether antidepressants are necessary.
A healthy diet, getting out of the house regularly and enlisting the help of any family that might be around is also useful.
Early intervention is necessary to maintain your wellbeing and your ability to bond with and care for your baby.
It is also essential that the psychologist you see is the right one for you. You need to be able to freely talk to your psychologist, and trust your psychologist for the relationship to work. You can usually tell this within the first session.
What about the Dads’?
When we talk about PND, we often forget about the fathers, however, 1 in 20 men will become diagnosed with depression and/or anxiety DURING their partners pregnancy (antenatal depression) and 1 in 10 AFTER their child is born (PND)
Management strategies are the same as for their partners – support, psychology and in some cases antidepressants. When their depression and anxiety is well managed, outcomes are better for the whole family.
What is Postnatal Psychosis?
Postnatal psychosis is a much rarer condition that affects 1 to 2 women per 1000 post delivery of a baby. It can be life threatening and requires urgent medical attention and hospital admission. These women have significant psychiatric disruption and are unable to care for the baby or themselves and need specialised care by a psychiatrist and antipsychotic medication. This condition responds well to medication and women generally make a full recovery.
1. St John of God
2. Centre of Perinatal Excellence
3. Royal Hospital for Women
4. PANDA – Perinatal and Antenatal Depression and Anxiety Australia