How Do I Know If I Have Post Natal Depression
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Sarah Weir - Registered MBACP (Senior Accredited)
27th January, 2011
For most mothers, giving birth and becoming a mother is an emotionally turbulent experience. It is possible to range from feelings of intense joy and satisfaction to feelings of uncertainty, vulnerability, and feeling overwhelmed and down. For many mothers these feelings can come and go throughout the day and night, depending on well things are going with their baby in that moment.
Post Natal Depression, I believe, is on a continuum. Most mothers will feel intense anxiety and uncertainty at times, as they try to grapple with the challenges that motherhood presents. It is also possible to feel tearful, down and overwhelmed. These feelings may be connected to specific stresses or they may seem to come from nowhere. It is quite common for these feelings to come and go in the first few months.
For some mothers, feelings of intense anxiety, sadness or depression predominate and it becomes more difficult to feel any sense of joy and satisfaction. This can then be accompanied by intense feelings of guilt and of feeling that they are not being the kind of mother they wanted to be.
Although these feelings might appear to come from nowhere and might be labelled by some as a kind of illness, or chemical imbalance, in my experience there is often an underlying cause that can be thought and made sense of over time.
The experience of birth can leave a mother feeling vulnerable and out of control and if it has not gone well, you might feel traumatised. You need time to recover from this emotionally and coping with this experience, on top of the intense demands of a newborn baby, can be overwhelming. Being a mother, and taking care of a little being who is so vulnerable, can evoke powerful and intense feelings about getting it right as a mother, and early difficulties, such as difficulties with breast feeding, or a baby who cries frequently can leave a mother feeling demoralised and unsure of whether she’s doing the right thing. Becoming a mother can also remind us (sometimes unconsciously) of our own experiences of being a baby and of being mothered, and this can evoke a range of feelings, that may influence how we feel.
All mothers need support and encouragement from those around them. In times of NHS cutbacks to maternity services and the lack of close, extended families, many mothers are now emotionally isolated and feel totally alone with their baby. There may be other stresses, new issues that arise in their relationship, poverty, poor housing, that can also contribute to feelings of depression.
If you are feeling very isolated and that there is no-one to support you, psychotherapy can help you to feel supported emotionally and provide a safe place for you to think alongside someone else, about how you want to be a mother and how to deal with the challenges that continually arise with each phase of development.
If you are feeling down or anxious or finding it difficult to enjoy your baby, this might also be a time to seek some support. Symptoms of Post Natal Depression include:
- Being less able to laugh or see the funny side of things
- Reduced capacity to enjoy life, or to look forward with enjoyment
- Intense self blame and self criticism
- Sense of feeling things are on top of you
- Feeling sad or miserable for much of the time
- Crying uncontrollably
- Difficulty sleeping
- Anxious, or worried or panicky for no apparent reason
- Thoughts of harming yourself.
It is important to have a safe place to talk about how you’re feeling and this can help you to manage how you’re feeling and also to make sense of why you’re feeling the way you do.
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