You’ve just given birth to a bouncing, beautiful, bundle of joy. You should be over the moon, right?
Well, sometimes. Plunket says that women often experience a range of emotions – from elation and excitement to times of feeling low, anxious, confused and tearful – in the early days of motherhood. And that’s normal.
What’s not normal is when the baby blues last longer than a few weeks. When that low feeling lasts, it can develop into postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression affects about 13 per cent of new mothers, according to Plunket, and new mothers often ignore the signs out of guilt. It can affect a first-time mum or a mother of five within the first year post-partum.
One Kiwi mother, Erin, told her story to mothersmatter.co.nz. She put her tearfulness and anxiety down to being tired all of the time. She disliked being stuck at home alone, and although her baby brought her joy, she struggled with resentfulness over loss of freedom. When her doctor diagnosed her with postnatal depression, she didn’t believe it. “What have I got to cry about? How could I have PND?” she said.
Mothers often ignore the signs of postnatal depression due to incorrectly associating it with failure as a mother. But ignoring and suppressing postnatal depression is dangerous. In worst-case scenarios, it can affect how you feel about and care for your new baby and other children.
The good news is that postnatal depression is not a life sentence. Treatment can be as simple as talk-therapy through to doctor prescribed medication depending on the severity of symptoms. The most important thing is to seek professional help and to not try to manage it alone.
Try to get lots of rest
Sleep or rest whenever possible. If someone is able look after your baby for a couple of hours, put on some soothing music, have a warm drink, and relax. Try to nap when your baby is sleeping and forget your to-do list for a while.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
Try not to go for long periods without eating, to avoid a dip in your blood sugar levels. A balanced diet will prevent you from becoming tired and feeling run down.
It may be the last thing you feel like doing, but exercise will help you to feel better in mind and body. There are plenty of YouTube clips with home-based exercise for mums, or taking baby out for a walk can lift your mood and get you out of the house.
Meet other mums
Having a baby can be isolating and post-natal depression can really make you feel alone. Join a Plunket group or other mums’ group in your local area and make connections with other mums.
Be kind to yourself
Taking care of yourself and your baby are the most important things. Try not to load yourself up with tasks that aren’t essential. Leave any big decisions for when you’re better, and be realistic about what you can achieve. Oh, and treat yourself once in a while.
Talk with your Plunket nurse or GP if you think you may have post-natal depression symptoms.
Signs of post-natal depression
• Experience feelings of hopelessness
• Experience depression during pregnancy
• Believe they just can’t cope
• Feel angry and irritated but not sure why
• Feel overly anxious about their baby
• Tearful, alone, guilty, and unsupported.
• Have difficulty sleeping even when their baby sleeps
• Have thoughts of harming themselves or their baby
• Feel that they are being a bad mother and that somehow they have to cope
• Not realise they are suffering from postnatal depression
More on baby & toddler: familytimes.co.nz/doula-vs-midwife.