Understanding Postnatal Depression
From the moment you find out that you are pregnant, intense desires can be evoked to love and nurture your baby and to protect it from harmful experiences. An ideal develops in your mind of the kind of mother that you want to be. You might want to pass on the good things you received as a child, or wish to offer your baby the things you never had. The reality of having a baby can be very different. Birth and breast-feeding don’t always go as you’d hoped or planned, there can be unexpected challenges and you might not feel the way that you anticipated. Your life changes dramatically and requires a great deal of adjustment and as with all transitions, things are lost as well as gained. You might mourn the freedom you once had, your relationship with your partner can change. The task of keeping a small baby alive can feel daunting and relentless.
Postnatal depression isn’t something that occurs to one in ten women. Depression can be viewed as part of a turbulent continuum of feelings that is part and parcel of becoming a mother, in which feelings anxiety and depression that can come and go from hour to hour, or day to day, depending on how things are going. Postnatal Depression describes an experience where these feelings persist over a long period of time and are not mitigated by the good things that happen.
Feelings of depression are often linked to low self esteem. If you are having negative feelings about being a mother, this might leave you feeling guilty, or bad inside. You can feel you have nothing to offer your baby, that you’re not doing it right. Everyone else seems to be coping and managing.
It is natural to have good and bad feelings in any relationship and surviving them together is part of the bonding process. As a mother, you need support and understanding from others that your feelings, however ambivalent, are a natural part of being a mother. Accepting yourself and how you feel can help you to feel less overwhelmed and less of a failure.
If you do feel overwhelmed by negative feelings it is wise to seek professional help. Counselling and psychotherapy can help you to make sense of your feelings and identify their underlying causes. This can alleviate anxiety and depression. It can also support you to respond to their baby’s needs constructively and creatively. We now know that a secure bond between a baby and mother is an important part of developing trust, confidence and self esteem. Early intervention can alleviate difficulties before they become deep rooted and enhance your experience of being a mother.
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