In the maelstrom of emotions after pregnancy, childbirth, and adjustment during the newborn months, it’s easy to mistake postnatal depression as just plain old exhaustion and overwhelm. But if left unchecked, postnatal depression can leave a drastic impact on your health, parenting, and relationships.
It can’t be underscored enough that all babies need is a healthy mother to love and care for them–and unmanaged postnatal depression undermines just that. However, help and support isn’t always readily available. In fact, even a simple definitive diagnosis isn’t accessible to a lot of women, whether they lack awareness or proper support to obtain one.
It’s only in recent years that mothers and healthcare providers alike considered the reality of postnatal or postpartum depression. Celebrities, most notably Brooke Shields, have started to speak publicly about their struggles with it, thus helping shed some light on the issue.
But what exactly does it mean to have postnatal depression? Don’t all moms have it at one point anyway, and don’t they get over it eventually? It’s a very gray area. Clinically speaking, there are certain parameters that help define postnatal depression, which sets it apart from your more usual hormonal surges.
- Onset of symptoms is within 4 months of giving birth
- Aggravated insomnia, loss of appetite, fatigue, and lack of sex drive–more than the average post-birth experience
- Increased feelings of severe sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and loss of pleasure–even your own baby doesn’t give you much peace or joy
- Suicidal or violent thoughts
Textbook hormone surges post-birth are to possibly to blame for this intense kind of the baby blues,which means all new mother are at risk of developing postnatal depression, but past that, there are also increased risks if you meet the following criteria:
- History of depression, pre- and during pregnancy
- Marital or familial conflict or stress
- Isolation, or lack of social support
- Age: younger mothers are more prone to depression than older ones
- Number of children: More children means an increased likelihood of experiencing postnatal depression
If this sounds like you, the optimal thing to do is to get help–immediately. This doesn’t have to mean seeing a therapist right away. Simply opening up to someone you trust about what you are experiencing is a great place to start. There are a lot of simple acts of self-care you can do, like journaling, meditation, and light exercise, to help alleviate some of the manifestations of the depression. You can even reach out to Australia’s premiere support resource for depression: Beyond Blue
Remember that even though it doesn’t feel or look like it, there are definitely brighter days ahead–even if you have to work a little harder to meet them.