I’ve been talking a lot about Mums and Postnatal Depression (PND) lately. But interestingly, one of the things that regularly crops up when I speak to Mums about this topic is their concern or experiences regarding their husband or partner having depression.
It’s something that’s not widely spoken of or understood, but Postnatal Depression in Dads is a very real issue.
Which is why I’ve written this guest post over at Mum Central, talking about this very topic.
Head over to take a look and please share through your social media channels, so we can start to get this subject out into the public awareness.
Finally, if you’re concerned that you or someone you love needs support with depression, please speak to a trusted health professional, and check out any of the following support services listed below.
How is Dad Going?
Black Dog Institute
For immediate emergency support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Until next time,
I’m taking a huge guess here – but I’m going out on a limb to say that most new mothers have asked themselves this question at some point in the first few years of becoming a mother.
Welcoming a new baby into the world is an experience like no other. Being a new parent brings a whole gamut of emotions, responsibilities and questions. Many of which we’re completely unprepared for.
But what happens when those emotions, responsibilities and questions become too much? When “unprepared” becomes “unable to cope”?
When does new parent overwhelm become postnatal depression?
Is it just the baby blues? Or is it postnatal depression?
Current statistics tell us that postnatal depression (PND) now affects one in 7 new mothers and one in 20 new fathers. But despite the increased incidence of PND in our society, there still seems to be misunderstanding about what PND actually is and how it is treated.
Beyond the “Baby Blues”
In recent years there’s been an increased awareness of the “Baby Blues”, that short period of time after childbirth in which new Mums can feel exceptionally sad or teary for no apparent reason. This episode generally coincides with the new Mum’s breast milk “coming in” and is primarily hormonal in its cause.
However, postnatal depression shouldn’t be confused with the baby blues, because it is something else entirely.
When feelings of sadness, hopelessness, fear and worry extend beyond a period of a few weeks it can signal that the mum is in fact experiencing postnatal depression.
How do I know if it’s PND?
The difficult thing about diagnosing PND is that the early signs and symptoms are so similar to the general experience of many new mums who may be overwhelmed with their new role as a parent.
Feelings of worry, exhaustion, bouts of tearfulness or irritability, feeling inadequate as a mother, feeling unable to cope, blaming yourself when things go wrong, being overly critical of yourself, decreased sex drive, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite. The majority of mothers can relate to having felt these emotions as a new mother – but they are also classic symptoms of PND. So how do we know if a Mum is just “going through a rough patch”, as opposed to something more serious?
From a health professional’s perspective, we will do an in-depth interview to help each woman determine whether it’s a case of the “blues” or if it’s actually depression.
What we look out for is these types of issues:
- Difficulty being able to laugh and see the funny side of things
- Decreased ability to look forward to enjoyable activities
- Blaming yourself unnecessarily when things have gone wrong
- Feeling anxious or worried without good reason
- Feeling like things are frequently “getting on top of you”
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping excessively
- Frequently feeling sad or miserable quite often
- Frequent bouts of crying
- Having thoughts of harming myself of others
In particular, we want to know how long these feelings have been experienced, generally if it’s more than a two week period, the likelihood that it’s actually depression is increased. (although with the last point about thoughts of harm, it’s important to address these, no matter how long they’ve been occurring.
With the early stages of depression there is no definitive test you can take which will answer “yes” or “no” to the question of “do I have postnatal depression?”. Which is why I always encourage anyone who might be worried they have PND to seek support from an experienced and understanding health care worker. They can help women work through these issues above.
I think I could have PND – what do I do now?
In my professional opinion, when it comes to seeking help for PND (even if you’re not sure its PND) , it’s a case of “better safe than sorry”. Seeking support and advice early is always recommended, as the types of interventions generally suggested for a woman with mild PND are the sort of things that would also support any mum who is simply overwhelmed. These might include:
- One to one, or couples counselling
- Relaxation and stress management strategies
- Mindfulness and meditation strategies
- Changes to diet and lifestyle – including sleep and exercise
- Increased practical support around the home
As with many other things in life, PND generally occurs along a continuum. It is rarely black and white. The experience of PND can range from a mild case with the mother experiencing just a few of the common symptoms for a period of a few months, through to extreme PND where a mother may feel exceptionally hopeless and have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Both examples would be considered depression, they’re just at different levels of intensity.
Many women put off seeking help for PND due to a number of reasons, frequently downplaying or talking themself out of speaking up. “It’s really not that bad”, “I’ll feel better once I get some decent sleep”, “It’ll get better once my baby is older”. These kind of assumptions can delay women from seeking timely support.
We know that early detection and treatment is the best possible course of action for parents who experience PND. If we can recognise the signs early, parents can access the type of support services listed above, and make lifestyle changes straight away. In many cases this can help to prevent the depression from becoming worse. But when PND is left unaddressed for long periods of time, it can escalate rapidly, meaning more intensive treatment options could be required, including the addition of psychiatric care or antidepressant medication.
For anyone concerned that they, or someone they know, might be experiencing PND, the best course of action is to seek support from a health professional. Speaking to your maternal health nurse, midwife, obstetrician, or GP is generally the first step. But you can also feel confident seeking out a counsellor, mental health OT, or psychologist, which in many cases doesn’t require a referral.
For further resources about PND, please visit the following websites:
If you require immediate support, please contact Lifeline on 131 114