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Postnatal Depression -Not always what you’d think…

Postnatal depression (PND) is something that most of us are aware of. Thankfully, for all of us, we are in an age where PND is freely talked about and recognised as the horrifically difficult condition that it is. Can you imagine the help and understanding that was offered to our Mothers or our Mothers Mothers? Support groups and internet forums were unheard of, research and recognition of this condition was a rarity, mental illness was simply not spoken of. There is still a lot of work to be done in breaking down the stigma and getting help to those who need it quickly but we are in a much more fortunate position, we seem moving in the right direction. Postnatal Depression is a crippling condition that comes in many scales and with many symptom.  If this illness is effecting your life or someone close to you, please speak up, seek help and support.

In 2010 The Australian National Infant Feeding Survey surveyed Mothers of children 24 months or under and found that 1 in 5 had been diagnosed with depression……1 in 5!

Another study. The largest to date, published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry followed ten thousand women for a year after delivery and found that 22% of new Mothers had been depressed…..22%

The research is as varied as the results. It is of course extremely difficult to accurately say just how many women are affected by PND and related conditions.  How do you record the number of women that do not recognize their symptoms? Or those who can’t admit it to themselves?  never mind those in a position to help that they are suffering? Those who choose not take conventional help, but choose to treat their condition holistically or those women that simply do not get help? It is my feeling that these statistics are merely the tip of the PND iceberg.

No one can say for sure what causes Postnatal depression, as with most things PND related there are many variants and contributing factors. Postnatal hormonal changes seem to be the biggest suspect, with some stating that the sudden hormonal shift can have a detrimental effect on our emotional well being. Changes in our body, changes in our lifestyle, a traumatic birthing experience and prolonged sleep deprivation are all thought to contribute. Whatever the causes, when dealing with PND help and support is needed.

I have mentioned earlier that PND is something that is freely talked about and this is true to an extent.  I have been to many a baby group where depression and anxiety are hot topics, they seem to be easily discussed in third person “She’s been dealing with postnatal depression” or “in hindsight I suffered terribly with my second child” but for some women, the women that are in the eye of the storm, talking about it can be impossible.

We have a preconception of a depressed Mother or what postnatal depression looks like….TV drama’s make the most of this stereotype, the manic women, disheveled with depression, unable to stop crying and cold towards her newborn.  This is of course a horrific and very real side of PND, but this is just one side.

Just as there are many variants of causes, treatments and statistics, there are also many variants of its symptoms and areas in which it will attack. Along with the listed symptoms on any piece written about PND, we also need to be aware of the women who on the outside look completely ‘together’ who have bonded fully with their baby, who can go about their life seemingly at ease, but who are numb inside and have no idea that they too are suffering. One woman’s experience of PND could be very different to another woman’s. The label of Postnatal depression can be deceiving.

Here is 5 symptoms of PND that are not immediately thought of when trying to describe the illness – just 5, there is of course many more.

Anger

Anger can be overlooked as a symptom as it is the opposite of what we envision postnatal depression to be.  Postnatal rage is very real and very difficult for everyone involved. Most of us are crabby if we are deprived of sleep, but if your anger is becoming uncontrollable and your rage is getting out of hand, then it may be time to look for help and assistance.

Numbness

This one can difficult to spot as it is one of the ‘quiet symptoms’, the feeling of just going through the motions.  Being on autopilot. Completing day to day tasks, but not feeling anything inside. Feeling disconnected from your life can be an indication of PND.

Physical Symptoms

Mental anguish can often lead to physical illness.  Headaches, stomach upsets and nausea can all be brought on or aggravated by stress and emotional unrest. Panic attacks are also a physical reaction to an emotional issue, they are terrifying and a huge indication that it is time to seek the many options of support and care available to you.

Sleep issues

Not being able to sleep when you are at your most tired can be maddening. With your baby waking you for feeds or cuddles to also be woken by bad dreams or thoughts for no apparent reason can be infuriating and another indication that your mind is not at peace.

Uncontrollable Thoughts  

Another ‘quiet symptom’ are scary thoughts which can overtake the mind with PND.  ‘What if’ scenarios or panicked day dreaming can be very difficult to deal with. Being unable to control your thoughts or being overtaken with dark and unpleasant imaginings, thoughts of worthlessness and despair are extremely difficult to deal with.

If your friend, sister, partner, neighbor were dealing with these internal symptoms how would you know? Speak up, Seek help, Seek Support.

Here are some helpful websites; mind.org.uk, pni.org.uk, anxietyuk.org.uk, anxietynomore.co.uk.  There are many more, if a particular website or organisation helped you, please post a comment to share the knowledge.

 

Comments

  • Zoe Delaney Zoe Delaney says:

    Excellent article and I couldn’t agree more. Having suffered myself I can say firsthand that it is still a bit of a taboo subject and a lot of people want to brush it under the carpet. Luckily I only had a mild case and I had a very supportive husband and family and I count myself extremely lucky that I got through it. There were times when I couldn’t talk about it and I couldn’t explain how I was feeling other than one word: helpless. Even my health visitor wrote me off by telling me at 5 months post birth (after a terrible birth and physical illness afterwards)to get some antidepressants! Fortunately I managed to get myself through it and come out the other side. The one thing I’d say to anyone suffering is that although it doesn’t feel like it, you will get better.

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