Postnatal Depression: What is it and When to Seek Help
The disruption of normal life due to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen mental health problems on the rise, particularly with new mums suffering from postnatal depression. Search statistics have risen as women felt isolated and received less help during lockdown, with many face-to-face appointments cancelled.
With life beginning to return to normal, it’s important we address the issue of postnatal depression – what is it? What are the symptoms to look out for and what help is available to those who are suffering?
What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression can affect every woman in a different way, and it can begin at any point in the first year of giving birth. it may develop gradually, or it may hit you all of a sudden. It’s very different from what’s known as ‘the baby blues’, which generally don’t last for more than two weeks following birth.
Though it looks different in everyone, common symptoms of postnatal depression include:
- Constant sadness, or feeling teary
- A general feeling of hopelessness
- A sense of ever-present guilt
- A pressing sense of anxiety
- Lack of energy
- Little or no interest in things around you, or activities that used to bring you joy
- Irritability or even anger towards those around you
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Problems focusing or concentrating
- Changes to your appetite – either over or under eating
How common is postnatal depression?
Nearly half of women with babies aged six months or younger met the threshold for postnatal depression during the first COVID-19 lockdown – more than double the average rates for Europe before the pandemic, suggests a new study led by UCL researchers, which surveyed 162 mums in London between May and June 2020.
The type of feelings described by new mothers were:
- increased stress
Many missed out on physical contact with relatives not being allowed to visit and help as well as no support or baby groups taking place. As well as parenting a new baby mums also were doing housework and home-schooling older siblings, which only added extra stress to the matter.
Participants listed up to 25 people who were important to them and shared who they had interacted with and how. The more contact new mums had with people, either remotely or face-to-face, the fewer depressive symptoms they reported, suggesting reduced social contact during lockdown may have increased the risk of postnatal depression.
Many mothers found lockdown was very stressful without anyone around to help, and that while virtual contact helped somewhat, it still wasn’t enough. Virtual contact meant women had to actively ask for help, because friends and family couldn’t see them struggling, which they felt made them feel like they were failing But it is important to remember that babies don’t come with instruction books, and not to be afraid to ask professionals for help
Get Help and speak up – Don’t suffer alone with postnatal depression
If you are feeling this way it is so important to seek help, there are lots of resources out there and there is no shame in what you are experiencing. Get a diagnosis from your GP or talk to a health visitor and set up a treatment plan tailored to you – you can work directly with a private psychiatrist to ensure you get all the attention and care you deserve at this difficult time.
More than anything, it’s important to keep the conversation going. You didn’t ask to get postnatal depression. It’s not an enjoyable part of parenthood, but it’s extremely normal. More people struggle than you know, and the more we speak about it, the more we are open and the more we ask for help, the better. Talk to friends and family – you’ll be surprised how much help you have available to you and how much people genuinely want to support you.
Posted by: Sarah Dixon | Posted on: September 3, 2021 | Posted in: HEALTH & WELLBEING