What is Postnatal Depression?
Between 1 in 7 and 1 in 10 women will experience postnatal depression and did you know that it’s a condition that men can experience as well. But, what is postnatal depression?
What is postnatal depression?
Many women may feel tearful, low in mood or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is often referred to as the “baby blues” and is so common that it’s considered normal.
If these symptoms last longer than 2 weeks after giving birth or start later, you could have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression can start any time in the first year after giving birth.
Many women do not realise they have postnatal depression, because it can develop gradually at a time when parents are naturally feeling tired and low in energy.
What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?
The symptoms of postnatal depression can be similar to those of other types of depression. These symptoms include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness and low mood.
- Lack of enjoyment or interest in the world.
- Lack of energy and feeling tired.
- Withdrawing from contact with friends and family.
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions.
- Negative or frightening thoughts.
- Difficulty bonding with your baby.
What causes postnatal depression?
Sometimes there is an obvious reason for the onset of postnatal depression, but this isn’t always the case. Many women can feel guilty for feeling the way that they do at a time when they are expected to be feeling only joy and happiness about the birth of their baby.
Postnatal depression can happen to anyone, including fathers and partners, and it’s no one’s fault.
It is suggested that postnatal depression is more likely to occur when:
- There have been previous mental health problems.
- There have been symptoms of depression or anxiety during pregnancy.
- There is poor support from their partner, family or friends.
- There are no close family or friends living locally.
- There has been another recent stressful event – e.g. a bereavement, a relationship ending, moving house or losing a job.
- There has been domestic violence or previous abuse.
However, postnatal depression can start for no obvious reason, without any of the above causes, and experiencing these problems doesn’t necessarily mean that postnatal depression is inevitable.
Is postnatal depression still a taboo?
Although things have started to improve in recent years, postnatal depression is still seen as a taboo, a guilty secret that needs to be hidden with many women feeling unable to openly talk about how they are feeling and the negative thoughts that they might be having. Negative thoughts such as:
“What’s wrong with me?”
“Why am I such a terrible mum?”
“Maybe they’d be better off without me!”
This reluctance to talk about postnatal depression, and to ask for help, often comes from fears of being perceived as a bad mum, being judged as a risk to your baby or even having your baby taken away from you. In reality, it is very rare for women with postnatal depression to hurt their babies or for babies to be taken away from their parents.
It’s important to ask for help as early as possible but you can still ask for help if you have been feeling depressed for some time. You don’t need to struggle on your own.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected postnatal depression?
Since the start of the pandemic new and expectant parents have had to cope with additional change and uncertainty at a time that can already be incredibly challenging.
Mumsnet recently surveyed 1,517 of their users who were pregnant during the coronavirus lockdown restrictions. They found that:
- 88% said they could not attend parent and baby groups because of pandemic restrictions.
- 85% said they have been unable to have partners with them at important healthcare appointments, like scans.
- 77% said they have felt scared or isolated at some point during their pregnancy because of Covid restrictions.
- 39% said they received bad or difficult news at a pregnancy or maternity healthcare appointment without having a loved one there to support them.
From an evolutionary perspective, we are stronger as a tribe than as individuals, something that is demonstrated in the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child”.
Due to the pandemic, and the country being in and out of lockdown and tiers, many new parents have been feeling isolated and unsupported. This isolation and lack of support from friends and family can be a key contributing factor to postnatal depression and it would appear it has played a significant role in the rise of postnatal depression during the pandemic.
How to get help for postnatal depression
There are several options to take that first step towards recovery, ranging from speaking to various services and professionals to reaching out to family and friends. Here are a few suggestions to get you started – it’s important to choose the option that feels right for you:
- Speak to your partner – Sitting down and having an open conversation with your partner can often be the first step towards recovery. Explain how you’ve been feeling and what help you feel you need to move forward. You might even find that your partner has been experiencing similar thoughts and feelings and you can support each other to seek additional help.
- Speak to family and friends – Reaching out to family and friends to again explain how you’re feeling, ask if they experienced something similar and to ask for extra support can also help you to feel like you’re taking positive steps forward. They can also support you to ask for more specialist help.
- Speak to your midwife or health visitor – During pregnancy and after the birth of your baby you will have regular contact with your midwife and health visitor. These appointments or home visits provide a good opportunity to talk about any worries that you might have. They can also tell you about support groups or services in your local area or they might suggest you speak to you GP.
- Speak to your GP – Visiting your GP is often the first port of call if you think you are experiencing a mental health issue. They can again suggest local support services or organisations and may talk about prescribed medication if appropriate. Mind have some helpful guidance on How to talk to your GP about your Mental Health.
- Speak to a Solution Focused Hypnotherapist – Solution Focused Hypnotherapy is a modern, clinically proven therapy using techniques grounded in neuroscience. It is a highly effective treatment for postnatal depression and on average, a series of between 6-12 sessions enables parents to feel like they’re coping whilst also rebuilding confidence and self-esteem. Find out more: What is Hypnotherapy?
About the Author: Kerry Seymour is based in our North Somerset clinic in Weston-super-Mare and she works with clients online both across the South West and around the UK. After experiencing postnatal depression following the birth of both of her children, Kerry is particularly interested in supporting parents experiencing perinatal mental health conditions such as stress and overwhelm, low confidence, depression, anxiety, trauma and OCD.
If you would like to explore how hypnotherapy can help you to recover from postnatal depression, and other perinatal mental health issues get in touch to book your FREE initial consultation with your local Inspired to Change hypnotherapist. Inspired to Change Hypnotherapists are based across the UK in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridgeshire, Devon, Essex, Fife, Kent, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Norfolk and Somerset.
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