Postnatal depression (PND) and anxiety affects about 10 - 20 percent of new mothers, and can occur at any time during the first year. You may experience them separately or simultaneously.
The possibility of being affected by PND and/or anxiety may increase if you have experienced depression and anxiety in the past.
Moving house during the perinatal period, experiencing a stressful event such as a trauma, the death of a family member or friend, or an illness can all impact on your mood. Even if you have supports in place you may still experience one or the other, or both.
In the early days of motherhood, women often experience a range of emotions from elation and excitement to times of feeling low, anxious, confused, and tearful. These low feelings are called ‘the blues’ or ‘baby blues’ and are common in the first 2 weeks after your baby’s birth.
For some mothers, however, the low feeling lasts longer and may develop into postnatal depression. With anxiety this can occur alongside depression and some of the signs and symptoms may overlap. It is common to worry about things, however anxiety is when your feelings become extreme and don’t go away and start to affect your daily living and relationships.
Postnatal depression is more severe than ‘the blues’, and a mother suffering from it may:
have feelings of hopelessness
have depression during pregnancy
believe they just can’t cope
feel angry and irritated but not sure why
have a poor appetite or an excessive appetite
feel overly anxious about their baby
tearful, alone, guilty, and unsupported.
have difficulty sleeping even when their baby sleeps
have thoughts of harming themselves or their baby
feel that they are being a bad mother and that somehow they have to cope
not realize they are suffering from postnatal depression
A mother experiencing anxiety may experience:
restlessness and unable to relax
feeling her worries are increasing
struggling to breathe
a racing heart
constant need to check things
concerns around her child/ren
Postnatal depression and anxiety can affect how you feel about, and care for, your baby and other children. Your cultural background may also affect your experience of postnatal depression.
Plunket is concerned about how postnatal depression and anxiety impacts women, children and families.
If you have any concerns or questions, you can contact a PlunketLine nurse 24 hours a day and free from any phone 0800 933 922
Plunket also has a podcast on Paternal Mental Health - see here.