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
- If you don't feel your partner quite understands, talk to family and friends you trust and identify with, who also may have young children.
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. Your feelings are no reflection on your ability to parent and health professionals do not judge.
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. More and more new mums talk more freely these days about feeling depressed and will have felt just like you are. Sometimes it’s the people who act happiest who are feeling the lowest. If you ever felt that a health professional is brushing off your symptoms, do seek 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.
If you do fund yourself suffering with PND, remember that it is no reflection on your ability to parent, and like other illnesses, once treated you can recover well. Professionals are trained to help you through this and will not judge you.