Often, Postnatal Depression (PND) goes undetected because the symptoms are explained away as either part of life as a new parent or the “baby blues”. Yet, PND, also known as Postpartum Depression, is a reality for many mothers. You don’t know when you will have it or if you will experience it. You may experience postnatal depression after your first child and never again after or you may experience it after each of your pregnancies. You may experience postnatal depression even if you miscarry or have a stillbirth. PND can range from mild to severe.
In a nutshell, PND is characterised by a dichotomy: on one hand, a strong desire to be the best mother you can possibly be, and feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope on the other. But what are the actual symptoms of PND in detail?
The symptoms of PND
Being depressed for a period longer than two weeks is in itself a warning sign that things are amiss. Here are some of the symptoms of postnatal depression:
- Feeling low or despondent
- Changes in your eating habits either increased or decreased eating
- Mood swings
- Irritability or anger
- Panic attacks
- Feeling inadequate or overwhelmed or worthless
- Feeling guilty that you aren’t able to cope, or even shame
- Sleeping problems either insomnia, restlessness, nightmares, etc…
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Decreased energy and concentration
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Lack of enjoyment in life
- Decreased libido
- Continuous crying or frequent crying
- Thoughts of hurting yourself or even your baby
A woman with postnatal depression may not have all these symptoms but may have several of them. If you are unsure, please seek professional help or talk to someone that you can trust. It is particularly advisable that you seek professional help especially if you are severely depressed, have suicidal thoughts or are in danger of hurting yourself or your child. The longer it is left untreated, the longer you will struggle to enjoy your life as a parent and your baby.
Triggers for PND
While professionals have not been able to pinpoint the exact cause of PND, they have identified common triggers that affect you during your pregnancy and after your baby is born. These may include:
- History of depression before pregnancy and/or during a previous pregnancy
- Financial difficulties
- Insufficient support system
- Insufficient sleep
- Less time for yourself
- Anxiety surrounding your ability to be a good mother
- Stressful events during your pregnancy and around your baby’s birth such as complications with your baby or the birthing process, the loss of a loved one, work changes (retrenchment or the start of a new business), or moving home
- Difficulty adjusting to life as a parent
Dealing with PND
Whether or not you have been diagnosed with PND, you have the power to overcome it. The best way to treat PND is to know which symptoms you are experiencing and seek suitable help. You should get help if your symptoms are getting worse, last longer than a couple of weeks or are affecting your quality of life and the care of give to your child(ren). In conjunction with professional help, doing the following will help you overcome PND:
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet
- Talk to your partner, family member, or friend
- Take time for yourself
- Do something you love
- Take people up on their offer to help you. If they weren’t sincere or didn’t want to help they wouldn’t have offered int he first place. People understand that life with a new baby is a huge adjustment and that new families need all the help they can get.
- Don’t be supermom. From one mom to another, you can’t do it all. Believe me, I’ve tried with the result of becoming intensely stressed and miserable. It’s better to have a support system than be a supermom with no one around. People weren’t created to be isolated: in fact, it takes a community to raise a child. Rely on your community.
A word of encouragement
Your baby is alive, breathing, growing, smiling, and happy. This is all thanks to your incredible care. You are a fantastic mom. Keep up the good work. Every time you are unsure of yourself as a mom, come back to this article and read this last section or print it and paste it where you can see it every day. Your baby adores you. Your partner is still in this with you. You are a terrific mom with a huge capacity to love and care.