The adjustment after having had a baby is always a bit difficult. It is not uncommon to feel sad, stressed, and down; but when the sadness lasts longer than a few weeks after having a baby, chances are it might be something more.
After having a child, it can be difficult to admit that there is less happiness and excitement than is typically portrayed in motherhood. Others may expect you to be filled with happiness and celebrating the new little addition. However, you might instead feel anxious, exhausted, and feel like crying instead. Some common symptoms of Post Natal Depression are:
- Low energy and motivation
- Changes in appetite and weight
- Loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
- Lack of interest in your new baby, and worries about hurting the baby
- Changes in sleeping patterns (sleeping more or less than usual)
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Thoughts of death and suicide
Usually, it takes several months for these feelings to fully develop in Post Natal Depression. So it can feel surprising when some of the feelings do not surface until the baby is 4 – 6 months old.
In Ireland, about one in every six new mothers will suffer from post natal depression. It is not known for sure what causes Post Natal Depression, however there are a few factors that seem to be associated with experiencing it.
Hormones & Physical Changes
The body also goes through a lot of stress not only during pregnancy, but during delivery as well. Hormones change, and there is often residual pain and tenderness after delivery. These can lead to irritability, fatigue, changes in blood pressure, metabolism, and immune functioning, and increase vulnerability to stress and depression after giving birth.
After a new baby, daily routines change. Infants constantly need tending to, and do will not yet sleep the whole night through. This also means less sleep. It is not uncommon to feel a loss of freedom when your day revolves around a new child, which can lead to feelings of depression and helplessness.
Starting a family is typically associated with images of joy and excitement. Commercials portray women with new babies as having that “motherly glow” and instinct. However, when reality sets in, it can be a shock to discover that there are skills to mothering that are not instinctual, and that having a new baby is difficult and exhausting. This can lead to feelings of isolation and being unable to cope as well as other new mums.
Coping with Post Natal Depression
Although the infant often becomes the main focus, it is important, as a new mother, for you to take care of yourself first. There are a few self-help things that can help you to cope with Post Natal Depression.
- Get sleep: Although this may seem impossible, catching up on sleep will improve symptoms. Considering poor sleep is a huge risk factor for developing depression, it makes sense that poor sleep as a new mother is going to increase the risk of developing Post Natal Depression. Whether it means getting some cover from your partner, parent or friend; try to work in sleep where you can.
- Check your diet: When busy changing nappies, feeding the baby, and rocking it back to sleep, it is easy to forget to eat. Ensure you are getting in all your meals each day.
- Talk to friends and family: If you are feeling down, let someone know. Other people like your partner or friends may not realise you are having a hard time and need some support until you tell them.
- Join a support group: Joining a support group with other new moms can be extremely helpful. It gives you a chance to talk to other people who are going through the same situation. It can be nice to hear you are not the only one struggling to make the transition into motherhood.
- Seek outside support: If still having a difficult time, it may be helpful to talk to your GP or a therapist. They can help you to work through problems and provide support throughout the transition.
Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.