If you’re worried you may have the signs of postnatal depression (PND) the first step is to get some help
It’s treatable, and nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about. It can happen to anyone.
At a glance
- Talk to your health visitor or GP. They will probably give you a PND questionnaire to fill in; it’s important to answer the questions honestly
- It’s important to eat healthily and regularly even if you don’t feel like it
- Get as much help as you can from your partner and family/friends: they won’t mind and it’s not a sign that you’re a bad mum if you need a bit of extra support
You’ve already done this bit just by reading this article. Realising you may have a problem and being prepared to ask for help is half the battle.
Talk to your health visitor or GP. They will probably give you a PND questionnaire to fill in; it’s important to answer the questions honestly. Never feel you need to hide your negative feelings. Just because not many new mums talk about feeling depressed when you’re chatting about pooey nappies or the unbelievable number of muslins you’re getting through, it doesn’t mean they’re not feeling just like you are. Sometimes it’s the people who act happiest who are feeling the lowest. If you think a health professional is brushing off your symptoms, get a second opinion.
Be kind to yourself. Let the boring household chores go (or delegate them) and take every opportunity you can to rest and/or sleep when your baby does. It’s important to eat healthily and regularly even if you don’t feel like it (perhaps friends or family can bring round meals). Try to get outside with the buggy every day as fresh air and exercise can really lift mood.
Get as much help as you can from your partner and family/friends: they won’t mind and it’s not a sign that you’re a bad mum if you need a bit of extra support. Mums with PND often worry people will think they’re lazy or incompetent. But PND is an illness not a personality fault! You’ll need support, rest and extra help. It’s really important to be honest with your partner about how you’re feeling as he’ll need to rally round.
Make contact with other mums: maybe there’s a local support group for PND (your health visitor or GP’s surgery may know). Try the Association for Postnatal Illness (020 7386 0868) or the PANDAS Foundation (helpline: 0843 2898401), which was set up by Rachael and Stuart Dobson after their experiences with PND.
For lots of mums, PND goes away within 3-6 months with some self-help and extra support but no treatment. Others might be advised to have one of the talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy, which can help reverse your negative thoughts, or psychotherapy. Sometimes your GP will prescribe antidepressants; these take two weeks to take effect, but they can also really help.
This is how some Bounty mums experienced the Baby Blues:
"No mum should suffer alone. If you don't feel yourself, for whatever reason, PLEASE seek help. Sometimes, all we mums need is a supportive friend to help us through the darker moments. Often, a little bit of fresh air and ‘me’ time can make us feel renewed and refreshed. "
"Hang on in there if you are feeling down and seek help if you are not feeling yourself – from your doctor, health visitor, family, friends or helplines. There are lots of people out there who want to make things better for you and all you need to do is ask - don't suffer in silence. Things do get better with support and time."
"I had PND with my son and it took me nearly a year to get help. But with time, giving myself patience, and taking the dreaded step to meet other mothers I found that most other mums had doubts too. But together we supported and validated each others’ mothering skills. I am pregnant again now, and I am nervous about PND but this time I have the skills to cope. Trust your instincts and don't expect the world of yourself."
"I have two sets of twins – the oldest aged 3 and the new set 12 weeks and I’ve just been told I have PND. I have tried so hard to keep on top of everything and pretend that I can cope but there comes a point when you have to be realistic with yourself and admit that it isn't that easy. You're not a failure as a mum - you're a better mum for getting help so please don't struggle. Go get the help you need and stop being hard on yourself."
"After an extremely traumatic birth with my first daughter where both of us were left with 50/50 survival rates, it seemed inevitable that I would suffer some kind of effect, and when my daughter was 4 months old I was diagnosed with PND. I accepted the help, the medication and time to heal. And I did. It’s nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about - and more importantly you’re not the only one."