How did you feel after having your bub – so excited you were jumping out of your skin, completely overwhelmed, exhausted beyond belief, or all of the above within the space of an hour?
Knowing when your feelings go beyond the realm of normal motherhood emotions and into Postnatal Depression territory is really important. The Healthy Mummy spoke to a professional to find out what you need to know.
‘Of course I’m tired/emotional/crying/sad – I just had a baby!’
As women we are pretty clued into our emotions, but we can also be dismissive of what we’re feeling.
Feelings associated with perinatal anxiety and depression can often be dismissed as what we’re ‘supposed’ to feel as mums – whether it’s our first or fifth bub. Social worker and Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) National Helpline Counsellor Laura McPhee-Browne says it can be difficult to recognise, but knowing the signs and symptoms is a great start:
- Abrupt mood swings.
- Anger or irritability.
- Sad, low, or crying for no obvious reason .
- Nervous, ‘on edge’, or panicky (a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or feeling physically ‘detached’ from surroundings).
- Exhausted and unmotivated.
- Loss of interest in things that previously brought joy (including sex).
- Sleeping too much or not sleeping very well at all, unrelated to the baby’s needs.
- Withdrawing from friends and family/ difficulty being with friends and family.
- Difficulties with memory or concentration (‘brain fog’).
- Obsessive thinking and behaviours.
- Risk taking/ impulsive behaviours.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
- Thoughts of harm to baby/children.
- Fear of being alone with baby/ being away from baby.
- Loss of confidence and lowered self esteem.
Laura says it’s important to remember that perinatal anxiety and depression can differ between each mum.
“Worry, lack of sleep, loss of confidence, having a down day or crying easily are all pretty common at some point in the early days of parenting. However, if symptoms persist for more than two weeks and impact daily functioning it is time to seek help. It is important to know that it is OK to ask for help and that you are not alone,” she explains.
What can I do if I think I have PND?
Laura says even if you don’t have every symptom on the list, you still could have perinatal anxiety and depression.
“It is common, does not discriminate and has many faces. Symptoms can range anywhere from: withdrawing from friends and family, crying for no known reason, and wanting to be alone to fear of being alone, anxious and agitated and unable to sleep.”
If you suspect you may have PND, the first step is to seek help. Start with a health professional like a GP, maternal child health nurse or midwife, as they understand the perinatal period.
You can also access help through the PANDA National Helpline, even if you don’t yet have a diagnosis. Laura also points out that if you feel you don’t have any support at home, there is help available.
“Sometimes services and groups need to become your extended network. Mother’s group mums, friends, child health nurse, GP. All can fill different roles in providing support. There are some programs across the country that provide in-home support for new mums. PANDA Helpline Counsellors can put you in touch with services.”
It’s important to note that PND can also impact dads, and will not simply go away on its own.
“Perinatal anxiety and depression is a serious illness and requires assessment and treatment. Seeking help early leads to a faster recovery and minimises the risk of potentially devastating outcomes for everyone,” says Laura.
If you’re concerned you may be experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression, you can contact the PANDA National Helpline is available for support: 1300 726 306 (Monday to Friday, 10am – 5pm AEST).
If you have a suspect that your partner or a friend may have PND, here is some help on what to look out for and what to do.