What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?

by Dr. Alison Gault


November is postnatal and antenatal depression awareness week.  This is a condition that effects 15% of women and 5% of men during or following the birth of a child.  This was brought to my attention by a family member who this week wrote a beautiful post on her blog (http://www.tuesdayschild.com.au/) about her own experiences with postnatal depression after the birth of her second child.  My gorgeous Aunt struggled for 15 long and hard months before finally reaching her breaking point that resulted in a diagnosis and treatment.

Being a new ‘ish mother myself, I can see how easily someone could brush off feelings such as depression, hopelessness, extreme fatigue and changes in appetite as being normal for the full time carer of a new baby. Looking at the list below, most of these symptoms I have experienced one time or other over the last 10 months BUT the difference is that these symptoms have been short lived.  If you have been experiencing any of these symptoms often and for long periods of time, PLEASE speak to someone, this is not normal and there is plenty that can be done to help you.  A great place to start is your GP, obstetrician, midwife or maternal and child healthcare nurse.

The information below is off the PANDA website, http://www.panda.org.au/.  This is an organisation that is doing a whole lot to educate and help members of the community experiencing antenatal or postnatal depression. They have a helpline that is open Monday to Friday 9am-7pm 1300 726 306.

Symptoms of antenatal and postnatal depression

Symptoms can begin anywhere from 24 hours to several months after delivery

  • Sleep disturbance unrelated to baby’s sleep
  • Changes in appetite
  • Crying – feeling sad and crying without apparent reason OR feeling like you want to cry but can’t
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control, unable to cope
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Negative obsessive thoughts
  • Fear of being alone OR withdrawing from family and friends
  • Memory difficulties and loss of concentration
  • Feeling guilty and inadequate
  • Loss of confidence and self-esteem

It is good to write down the things that are concerning you, thinking about:

  • how long you have felt/thought these things.
  • how distressing and intense are the thoughts and feelings
  • do they interrupt you meeting the demands of every day life
  • things you usually do to help you feel better are not working

Please visit the PANDA website for more information about postnatal and antenatal depression.  Here is a list of the services that PANDA provides to the community.

PANDA’s National Perinatal Depression Helpline which provides counseling, support and referrals to families experiencing depression during pregnancy and after baby’s birth;

  • Home-Start, an in-home  volunteers visiting and support program;
  • Information, education and training seminars for parent groups and health professionals
  • Assistance setting up postnatal depression support groups;
  • National resource and service referral database.

If any of these symptoms sound a little too close to home, ask yourself or your nearest and dearest… Are you OK?

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