“True… I suppose… but why do I feel so awful?”
Most mothers experience a mood dip in the first few days after having a baby. The exhaustion, the drama and a new cocktail of hormones in her body all conspire together to make many mums feel sad and worried. Fortunately, it usually lifts within two weeks. If it lasts longer than that, or if it commences later than a fortnight after birth, she may be dealing with something more than just the normal ‘Baby Blues’. For about one woman in ten, Postpartum (or Postnatal) Depression crushes the pleasure out of what should be a wonderful stage of life. Sadness or anxiety move in and seem in no rush to move out. Sometimes PPD makes the mother feel empty, hopeless and exhausted; at other times she feels filled with anger and frustration. Sleep and the ability to make decisions can become very disturbed. It sometimes impacts the way she cares for her baby and, very often, she neglects herself as well. Just to make things even worse, one study showed that 50% of the partners of women with PPD get depressed as well! Male Postpartum Depression is real and surprisingly common.
How severe the PPD is, and how long it lasts, vary a lot. It could last for months, it might last a year.
Here are some things that help:
Get a good diagnosis. Prescribed medication may provide a lot of relief. A doctor will also be particularly keen to rule out the rarer, but more serious, Postpartum Psychosis, or some other mental or emotional problem.
Breast Feeding. Along with all the benefits for the baby, breast feeding seems to ease PPD.
Counselling. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is known to help many people with PPD, and other counselling strategies may help as well.
Support. Every parent with a baby benefits from support, especially if the parent is struggling with depression. Practical assistance plus social interaction is wonderfully therapeutic.
Googling the topic brings up lots of information, resources and contacts. A good number to keep handy is Plunketline, 0800 933 922.