Sometimes you need to take a little extra care of yourself after you give birth.
- Postnatal depression (PND) is a term used to cover a number of emotional changes that can occur after giving birth, and sometimes during pregnancy.
- Between 10 and 15% of women in New Zealand suffer from some form of postnatal depression, so it really is quite common and it is important to be aware of what can happen and how to get help.
- Most women will experience “Baby Blues” or “day three” blues during the first week after having a baby – you may have mood swings, episodes of anxiety, tearfulness or a feeling of just not coping. This lasts a few days only.
- PND can start at any time in the year after having a baby. Usually it starts in the first six weeks but can begin months later. There are a number of different symptoms and it may be hard to tell if this is “just being a mother” or PND, especially if this is your first baby and there is nothing to compare your current experiences to. Often women feel they are a bad mother or have failed in some way – this is not true.
Symptoms of PND
- Changes in mood – this may vary through the day from quite well to very depressed and low
- Sleep problems not related to baby’s need, for example being unable to get back to sleep after feeding or sleeping too much
- Appetite disturbance – not feeling hungry or eating too much
- Exhaustion and/or over activity
- Feeling tearful or irritable
- Anxiety symptoms – tension, shakiness, feeling “unreal”, panic attacks
- Developing memory and concentration problems
- Low self-esteem and loss of confidence, feeling guilty and inadequate
- A fear of being alone or fear of being with others
- Loss of interest in sex
- Obsessive, negative or morbid thoughts, fears of harming yourself or your baby
- Feeling life is meaningless
What to do About PND
The “Baby Blues” are self-limiting and do not require treatment. PND varies in severity and some women will need to take anti-depressant medication. Other women will get better with extra practical support and counselling. Do contact us if you or your partner is worried about the development of PND. Treatments are very effective and we can organise help quickly.
Many couples have become used to living without the support of their parents and extended family but a new baby is a time when as much family help as possible is needed.
Try to make room for your parents to visit regularly or stay for a couple of weeks. They may need some ground rules and a daily list of tasks: a grandchild might be a new experience for them too. Other grandparents will be old hands and be delighted to help.
Make as much use of friends and neighbours as you can for meals, washing and household tasks.
If your parents are coming from overseas and visas could be a problem talk to us – sometimes a supporting letter from a lead maternity carer explaining why family support is needed can be helpful.
Breast feeding, care for older siblings, keeping up with cleaning and cooking or just general exhaustion are all a problem for new mums and dads.
There are many ways you can access extra help with a new baby. Friends are often only too happy to come and do some cooking, shopping or cleaning – you only have to ask.
Agencies such as Karitane can offer nursing support for new mothers. Look on our Helpful Information page for details of useful organisations.
Spend as much on cleaners and childcare for older siblings as you can afford. This is all worth arranging in advance during the last few weeks before your baby is born.