She may feel her world has fallen apart, that everything is black or that nothing makes sense. For some, it can even start during pregnancy, and if left untreated can get worse after the baby is born.
There are three types of childbirth-related depression that are talked about:
Here we focus on postnatal depression. This can happen to women who have never been mentally unwell before. Others may have had depression or a psychotic illness in the past. Regardless of what has happened before, the symptoms and treatment are similar.
The major difference between this form of depression compared to others is that it involves a newborn baby as well as the mother therefore it is really important to seek help early. Because postnatal depression can affect how you feel about, and care for, your baby and other children it is important not to ignore any signs. Talk to your midwife or doctor immediately.
If you fear you might harm or kill yourself it is vital that you seek help immediately.
The good news is that postnatal depression can be treated and you will get better over time.
Postnatal or any depression is a sign of a weak character.
NOT TRUE Postnatal depression can strike any woman after the birth of a baby. While some particular personality types may be more likely to develop depression, the vast majority of women who develop the condition have been previously healthy and led normal lives.
Women with postnatal depression can 'snap out of it' or just choose to 'pull their socks up'.
NOT TRUE One of the most disabling symptoms of depression is the fact that it saps the will and makes doing anything an enormous effort. Depression is an extremely unpleasant experience, and most women with this condition would (and do) do anything to get well. ‘Snapping out of it’ is not an option.
While anyone who gives birth is vulnerable, there are certain factors that increase the chances of developing postnatal depression.
Risk factors before pregnancy and birth:
Risk factors related to the birth:
Risk factors after birth:
The signs of postnatal depression are the same as for depression, which can occur at any other time. These may vary between women and over time in any one woman.
If you are concerned, or suspect you (or a loved one) has postnatal depression it is important to talk to your midwife, doctor or Plunket nurse. Remember, depression is a serious illness and you do need to see your doctor if you suspect you may be suffering from it.
Treatment of postnatal depression can involve a number of aspects, each of which can be tailored to your individual needs.
Your doctor will recommend a mix of treatment options which best suits you. Talk to them if you are considering stopping treatment and work together with them to find some compromise that will ensure continuing wellness but address your concerns about the treatment. If you are on medication, it is very important that the decision to stop taking it is made with the input of your doctor and anyone else involved in your treatment. With some medications stopping suddenly can make you feel worse.
Supportive counselling is a treatment for milder forms of postnatal depression, where it is as effective as antidepressant medication. More specific therapies such as cognitive behaviour therapy, (CBT) are very effective. People learn how to use their own skills and resources to cope with worries and problems.
Education about postnatal depression can be extremely important to help the new mother, their family/whānau and supporters to understand and help in their recovery. Your doctor will give you information about postnatal depression, suggests different ways to handle it, and discusses any complications which could occur.
Talking about it with friends and family/whānau will help.
Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants for depression. Finding the right medication can be a matter of trial and error – there is no way to predict which medication will be effective and tolerated (have fewer troublesome side effects) by any one person.
If you are prescribed medication you are entitled to know:
If you are breast feeding no medication is entirely safe. Before making any decisions about taking medication at this time you should talk with your doctor about the potential benefits and problems. As noted before, it is important not to stop taking antidepressants suddenly without medical advice.
The term complementary therapy is generally used to indicate therapies and treatments that differ from conventional western medicine and that may be used to complement and support it.
Certain complementary therapies may enhance your life and help you to maintain wellbeing. In general, mindfulness, hypnotherapy, yoga, exercise, relaxation, massage, mirimiri and aromatherapy have all been shown to have some effect in alleviating mental distress. When considering taking any supplement, herbal or medicinal preparation you should consult your doctor to make sure it is safe and will not harm your health, for example, by interacting with any other medications you are taking.
It's also really important to look after your physical wellbeing. Make sure you get an annual check up with your doctor. Being in good physical health will also help your mental health.