MATERNAL MENTAL HEALTH
Post-Natal Depression and Anxiety
Between 10-20% of women report depressive symptoms in the first year following childbirth. Some studies have identified rates of postpartum depression as high as 25%.
Many mothers may not realize they are suffering with post-natal anxiety or depression. While a depressive episode may occur for some women in the first weeks following childbirth (or, in many cases, when they are pregnant), for many it is an insidious process, starting with sleep deprivation and continuing into a range of symptoms.
Symptoms of Postnatal Depression can include:
- Low mood and irritability
- Sadness and crying episodes
- Anxiety and worrying thoughts
- Low energy/fatigue
- Disrupted sleep and eating patterns (sleeping or eating too much or too little)
- Lack of enjoyment in pleasurable activities
- Loss of interest in sex
- Feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope
- Little or no motivation
- Poor memory and concentration
- Negative thoughts (about yourself, your baby, the world)
- Suicidal thoughts
Symptoms of Postnatal Anxiety can include:
- Feeling wound up all the time, unable to relax
- Physical symptoms: heart racing, sweating, migraines, butterflies in stomach or feeling nauseous, tightness in chest
- Inability to sleep
- Constant worrying thoughts
- Panic attacks
Part of the reason it can be difficult to recognise depressive symptoms is that several can be the result of having a new baby (i.e. disrupted sleeping patterns, fatigue, reduced libido, etc). However, if low mood and crying persist and you are generally feeling you cannot cope, it is advisable to seek assistance.
Risk factors for developing Post-Natal Anxiety or Depression include:
- Being socially isolated
- Little or no family support
- A poor partner relationship
- A poor relationship with your own mother
- Previous history of anxiety, depression, or low mood
- Previous history of hormonal mood swings (i.e. PMS)
- Having been a high achieving career woman prior to motherhood
It is likely that rates of poor maternal mental health will continue to rise, as motherhood becomes a more and more isolated experience.
Unfortunately, being depressed can affect your motivation and ability to care for your baby, which can in turn affect the attachment bond between you and your child. Sometimes it can be difficult to ask for help for yourself, but taking care of yourself means you are taking care of your family.