Whilst I try to keep this blog lighthearted, there are some subjects that need to be addressed in a more serious manner. I think postnatal anxiety is one of these.
Some mothers experience that instant rush of love as soon as they clap eyes on their little purple ball of baby. *That is ok*. For others, it takes a bit of time. *That is ok*. Some mothers don’t experience a period of “oh my Christ, what have I done?!” and others experience that on an hourly basis. *That is ok*. Whatever your experience is of this time of motherhood, it is yours and therefore ok!
Things start getting a bit more complicated when your mood changes.
70% of mothers get affected by the baby blues. That is a staggering amount and will hopefully show you that you are most definitely not alone.
The baby blues start at around day 3 and can last until your baby is around 10-14 days old. You maybe feeling low, anxious and irritable. You may be having mood swings and over reacting to small problems. You maybe crying for what feels like forever.
This is very normal and doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby, you don’t want your baby or that you’re a terrible mother. DO NOT FEEL GUILTY! This is NORMAL. You don’t need to be medicated, removed from your baby or sectioned! This is the fault of your hormones so be kind to yourself. There are some little things that may help.
Admit that you’re feeling like this to yourself and to your immediate family will help. Ask for support/help from your family and friends. You are not super woman. If they offer to do anything (cleanings a good one!) take them up on it. This is your time to be selfish and focus on your needs and your baby’s needs.
Take time to adjust to your new role and identity as mother. The burden of responsibility can sometimes feel too much to bear. You are trying to keep a defenseless human alive. This is huge!
As difficult as it may seem, get out there. Go to breastfeeding cafe, baby yoga, baby massage, anything that puts you in close proximity with other mothers. Make yourself a village of mothers who will support you through the perils of motherhood.
This is a brilliant page that goes into more depth.
20% of mothers will experience postpartum depression (PND). Still quite a surprisingly high percentage.
If your baby blues are continuing for quite a few weeks or your mood turns low after those first few weeks, there is a potential that you could be dealing with PND. Accessing help quickly from your G.P or health visitor when you suspect you have PND is vital as if it’s not treated, it can last for a long time. And quite frankly, who needs to feel pretty crappy for an extended length of time just to ‘make sure it’s PND’?! No G.P or health visitor will see it as wasting their time if you rock up.
It’s worth noting that breastfeeding mothers generally have less PDN than formula feeding mothers because nursing your baby lowers your overall stress levels, encourages bonding between mother and baby and gives you positive feelings that go along with nuturing your baby in a way only you can. However, if breastfeeding is not going well, this can become a flash point for mothers to become depressed.
A lot of the symptoms of PND sound like everyday issues a mother of a baby would experience. Things like tiredness, unable to concentrate, trouble sleeping at night and drowsy in the day. Name me one mother who hasn’t felt like this! However, some are very easy to identify. If you’re having difficulty bonding with your baby and feel like you’re unable to look after them, having frightening thoughts about hurting them or you, and feelings of complete hopelessness, it’s quite obvious that there is an issue. This website gives a more comprehensive list of symptoms.
Treatment of PND consists of self-help, therapy and medication.
The self-help is pretty much the same as if you had the baby blues.
The main types of therapies used are self guided (working your way through a book or online course), cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy (IPT) (NHS.UK (2016)).
The premise of cognitive behavioural therapy is the idea that negative thoughts or thinking (why doesn’t my baby sleep through the night at X amount of months) leads to negative behaviours (feelings of failure). So if you can find a way to break these negative thoughts then you can break the back of the negative behaviour. CBT can be carried out in groups or one to one and treatment can last up to 4months.
IPT involves one to one talking to a therapist and identifying relationship problems within your family, friends or partner and focusing on how this relates to your feelings. Treatment can last up to 4months.
If your G.P identifies that you’re suffering from moderate to severe PND then they may suggest antidepressants. If you have a history of depression then they may also be prescribed for you.
Antidepressants work by balancing mood-altering chemicals in your brain. Sounds scary but it’s not. They can help your symptoms and allow you to function normally as well as help you cope with looking after your baby. They take a bit of time before you notice a difference and will need to be taken for around 6months.
If you are breastfeeding remember to tell your G.P when you are prescribed antidepressants. There are many more out there that are safe to use when breastfeeding. It’s better to treat the depression than wean the baby and lose the protective benefits of breastmilk.
This website goes into more detail around treatment.
A few mothers, about 0.1%, will experience postpartum psychosis. This starts at around 1-2months and can last anything up from 2weeks. Postpartum psychosis is a serious mental illness and should be treated as a medical emergency (NHS.UK (2016)).
The two main symptoms of postpartum psychosis hallucinations (hearing voices or see things/people who aren’t there) and delusions (thoughts that are unlikely to be true).
This combination of symptoms can make mothers harm themselves and/or their baby. The mother may not realise that she is unwell so it is vital that family, friends and partners can identify it. This website can help if you think your partner/friend or relation is suffering from postpartum psychosis.
NHS.UK (2016) ‘Postnatal Depression-Treatment’. [Online] Available from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Postnataldepression/Pages/Treatment.aspx
(Accessed 20th September 2016)
NHS.UK (2016) ‘Postpartum Psychosis’. [Online] Available from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/postpartum-psychosis/Pages/Introduction.aspx#how-serious
(Accessed 20th September 2016)