Coping with Postnatal Depression
Postnatal depression (also known as postpartum depression) is a form of mood disorder or depression that affects approximately 1 in 10 women*, within a year of giving birth. Contrary to popular belief, it also affects fathers and partners, although women are more likely to suffer from it.
While this condition may abate with time, leaving it untreated poses serious risks to the wellbeing of those who suffer from it, their babies, and their families.
Our post dives into the signs of this condition among parents and a few strategies that can be pursued together with professional help and counselling.
Symptoms of postnatal depression
When it comes to diagnosing postnatal depression, mental health specialists are careful to distinguish between ‘baby blues’ and the former. Baby blues is when women feel tearful, anxious, or sad within 2 weeks of giving birth.
Symptoms (such as those below) that last longer or begin at any point within the first year of giving birth, fall under postnatal depression. These include:
- Persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- Lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in otherwise interesting or pleasurable activities
- Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- Sleeping difficulties and irregular sleeping patterns
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from social interactions
- Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
- Troubling thoughts, which include hurting your baby
How do you cope with this condition?
Try out self-help tactics
The first step towards recovery and better management of your symptoms is understanding that you are not at peak health and, therefore, need to be kinder towards yourself.
Some of these include seeking support from your family and friends, accepting help when it is needed – especially when it comes to taking care of your baby or other housework, taking time off to do something relaxing, eating regular and healthy meals, getting some exercise whenever you can, and avoiding alcohol and drugs.
Seek help from a professional counsellor
One of the most effective strategies for managing postnatal depression is seeking the help of a mental health expert. Depending on who you go to, you may be treated with one of the many therapeutic strategies that are relevant to your symptoms.
Some of the most widely-used treatments are Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which is where therapists try and tackle certain types of negative thinking that leads to negative behaviour. How CBT works is that it restructures your thought patterns and attitudes to be more positive.
While this sort of therapy is usually one-on-one, there are also support groups that use CBT. Treatment usually lasts a couple of months.
Apart from this, interpersonal therapy is another popular way in which psychologists aim to help those with postnatal depression. Here, you are expected to talk to your therapist about what’s bothering you. He or she will then attempt to identify any problems in your daily life and try to address them in a way that may help with your depression.
Depending on who your mental health professional is and how severe your symptoms are, you may also be prescribed medication to help manage your condition.
Antidepressants, in particular, work by balancing naturally-occurring, mood-altering chemicals or neurotransmitters in your brain. They are effective in providing relief to certain symptoms such as an inability to sleep, low mood, and irritability, giving you some relief from postnatal depression.
That being said, it’s important to note that you may not experience any change right away. You need to keep taking them for a certain period of time to experience (and sustain) its effects. Antidepressants aren’t a panacea either – you need to actively engage in self-care in order to achieve a healthy mental state.
You will also need to speak to your doctor about breastfeeding while you’re on this type of medication.
Postnatal depression is only one part of your life – don’t be fooled otherwise
Postnatal depression is a serious mental health condition. Yet, it does not define who you are or make you a bad parent.
Get the mental health support you need – even from the comfort of your own home – to begin your road to recovery. While your journey may take longer than you think, remember, there is no shame in suffering from any mental health issue, just as there is no shame in asking for help whenever and however you need it.
Get the support you need to be the best version of yourself for you, your child, and your family.
*This number may change based on where you live