According to Beyond Blue, 1 in 7/8 women will experience postnatal depression (PND). It’s far more significant than baby blues, which occurs in 8-9/10 women. For women experiencing this, it can be a very difficult, traumatic time. Instead of being overjoyed with the birth of their new child, which many anticipated, they often feel very sad, emotional and alone. Unless you have experienced it yourself or perhaps have someone close to you that has, it can be very challenging to understand.
At first, you may not know your loved one is experiencing PND. Chances are she doesn’t either. Even though there is clearly something wrong, some women will refuse to go to the doctor. It can be very hard for some new mums to admit they aren’t coping. Some see other mothers coping and may feel inadequate because they feel totally overwhelmed. This is natural, particularly with first time mums. Unfortunately, culture dictates that women are natural nurtures and many new mums don’t realise it can take time to grow into this role.
When you think of the pressure society puts on new mums, plus the pressure they place on themselves, no wonder some new mums feel overwhelmed and disillusioned. Not only has a massive change occurred in their life but many new mums are often chronically sleep deprived, have trouble breast feeding, lack support at home, gone from working and being surrounded by people, to being left alone day after day with a new baby.
When you think about it, every aspect of their life changed the moment the baby was born. We now know that mental illness does have a genetic component and therefore, some people maybe more susceptible than others. For those at risk of suffering anxiety or depression, this combination of changes maybe the time these conditions present themselves.
The most important thing to remember, no matter what sort of relationship you have with someone with PND, is that it is a recognised mental health issue which they are experiencing. They are not going out of their way to be over emotional, be on the verge of tears, withdraw from those they love or push them away. They are not neglecting their appearance or house work on purpose. They are probably putting all the energy they do have, into looking after their baby. As hurtful as it is, they may not have time for you as they struggle to survive.
This is possibly why this condition is so isolating. Many women with PND will try to cope in their own way, by themselves, in the privacy of their own home. The best advice is to be patient. Hopefully the new mum will go to the doctor to seek help and shorten the duration of the condition. If either your loved one or yourself are looking for support for PND, please check out the list below for available resources.
BeyondBlue – 24/7
1300 22 4636
PANDA – 10am -5pm (AEST)
1300 726 306
Black Dog Institute – Comprehensive Australian & State reference list
By Kim Chartres