Postnatal depression; don't suffer in silence

Many women experience the ‘baby blues’ following the birth of a baby. This usually starts three to 10 days after giving birth and is so common that it is considered normal. Around 10 to 15 per cent of new mothers develop a much deeper and longer term depression, known as postnatal depression (PND). 

It can be difficult for women to recognise what might be a normal experience of being a mother to a small baby and what might be the onset of PND. Most mothers will feel intense anxiety and uncertainty at times. It is also possible to feel tearful, down and overwhelmed. These feelings come and go but can be tolerated, especially if she has a good support network. It is when a number of symptoms persist and interfere with a woman’s ability to cope, that she may be suffering from a significant illness such as PND that needs intervention and treatment.

Symptoms of PND include:

  • low mood for a long period of time
  • feeling inadequate, guilty and overwhelmed
  • tearfulness
  • extreme fatigue
  • loss of libido
  • self-neglect
  • anxiety
  • anger
  • shame and despair
  • suicidal thoughts.

All mothers need support and encouragement from those around them. The experience of giving birth can leave a mother feeling traumatised, vulnerable and out of control, especially if it has been a difficult birth. She will need time to recover emotionally and physically.

A new mother has to come to terms with loss as well as gain. Her role in the world has changed, as well as her identity, her body and her freedom. She is now responsible to put the needs of her child before her own.    

With greater honesty about the difficulties new mothers face in adapting to motherhood and awareness of how crucial emotional and practical support is, the whole experience could be so much more joyful. There is nothing shameful about saying, “I am struggling to cope” - in fact that takes a lot of courage to be vulnerable and reach out.

If you’re having this experience, remember you’re far from being alone and the most important thing is not to suffer in silence. It is encouraged you to contact your GP, who will ask more detailed questions. Your GP may advise medication, suggest counselling or both.

Talking to a trained counsellor can help you make sense of what is happening, without fear of being judged. It can also help you feel less isolated and more connected with yourself, as well as your baby.

For more information on counselling, visit http://headspacetherapy.com, email me at becky.spurring@headspacetherapy.com or freephone 0800 612 4426 to book a session or arrange a consultation.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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