According to the NHS, Post-natal depression (PND) and Post-natal anxiety (PNA) are estimated to affect more than 10% of all women within a year of giving birth. It also affects partners although this is less common. Despite this and increasing national awareness around this (the second annual UK Maternal Mental Health Matters Week was held in the first week of May 2018) there is often still a stigma around talking about PND. You may feel ashamed or misunderstood when discussing this with close friends or family. You may feel guilty and confused about how why you feel like this – how can I love my baby but feel so overwhelmed and want to run away?
Motherhood can be particularly hard if you are an older mother or have had a long career and an independent life (which was largely in your control) prior to giving birth. It can also be hard if you have strived for perfection in your life. It is impossible to get anything perfect (and nor should perfection be an aim) or to be ‘in control’ when children are in the mix, however new mothers may have a sense that the only way they will feel better is to get things ‘under control’. This is an illusion and striving for perfection or trying to exert control often contribute to PND and PNA. Perfection is an unattainable goal and contributes to a feeling of not feeling good enough which can be very damaging and isolating for a new mum. In addition, this striving removes you from being present for your baby which can hamper bonding.
Read this mothers story about post-natal anxiety ‘I was convinced my baby deserved a better mum’ by Alexandra Vanotti
According to the NHS, the main symptoms of PND include:a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- loss of interest in the world around you and no longer enjoying things that used to give you pleasure
- lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- feeling that you're unable to look after your baby
- problems concentrating and making decisions
- loss of appetite or an increased appetite (comfort eating)
- feeling agitated, irritable or very apathetic (you "can't be bothered")
- feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame
- difficulty bonding with your baby with a feeling of indifference and no sense of enjoyment in his or her company
- frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby; these can be scary, but they're very rarely acted upon
- thinking about suicide and self-harm
These symptoms can affect your day-to-day life and your relationships with your baby, family and friends. You may feel like staying at home all the time as that feels ‘safer’ and more controllable, however ironically it is often connection that is needed.
PND and PNA should be taken very seriously. Please ask for help. Speak to your GP or Health Visitor. There are a variety of options that will help your recovery and a combination of these options can be very successful at alleviating the symptoms and improving the situation. Psychotherapy may be suitable for you at this time so please get in touch if you would like to make an appointment.