I’ve had 5 babies, and so in the past decade I’ve been in a lot of mothers’ groups, both online and offline. One thing I’ve noticed is the high rate of PND that mums are experiencing. Despite how close a mothers group usually gets, often it takes things getting really bad before a mum who is not coping will speak up. Please read through these points so you can be aware of how your pregnancy can affect your emotional wellbeing both before and after your baby is born.
Pre-baby anxiety is common
Feeling anxious about the baby, how you will cope as a mother, how the birth will go, if you will be able to take care of the baby, if the baby will be healthy and even whether you will love your baby are all normal and common emotions. Let yourself have these thoughts and work through them slowly, but just watch yourself if they start to become excessive.
A study published recently in Lancet Psychiatry found that PND often begins before the baby arrives. The study of over 8,200 women found that two-thirds of mothers with severe PND (involving frequent crying and even suicidal thoughts) started experiencing mood shifts during pregnancy.
If you don’t feel right during pregnancy, get help now.
Women with complications can be more likely to feel down
No real surprise here – of course if you’re facing challenges in pregnancy then that’s going to add more worry to what can be a turbulent time. A study has found that t 60% of mothers with moderate postpartum depression had some kind of complications during pregnancy, such as gestational diabetes. Some doctors have wondered whether this depression might be related to the complication, for example, brought on by a glitch in the mum’s immune system.
Depression isn’t your fault and it doesn’t mean you don’t love your baby
“Pregnant women and their partners need to understand that they are not to blame for a perinatal mood disorder,” says Robin Muskal, PhD, a postpartum depression wellness coach in Florham Park, New Jersey. “There are many contributing factors to [pregnancy-related] mood shifts. None of them are the fault of the mother.”
Sometimes it’s not you – it’s life
Something that I think people really under-estimate is the impact that the change in life that comes with a baby has on new mums. Of course you are excited about your baby, preparing the nursery, experiencing your body changing and nourishing new life. But the switch from a working mum to spending a lot of time at home, or from adding a new baby to an already busy household, losing an income, the inevitable change in roles between you and your partner – they all take a toll. Change is always tumultuous, especially when you throw in learning to breastfeed, sleep deprivation and physical aches and pains. Prepare yourself ahead of time for the changes that are to come. Make a plan for outings and social contact, and make sure you and your partner are clear about expectations for life after baby.
And you are not alone
The reality is that PND is actually one of the most common complications of pregnancy. Many women feel uncomfortable discussing their feelings, because we are told all our lives that becoming a mother is one of the most joyous things that we can experience. And this is true – but it doesn’t mean it’s not also very challenging and that it can be isolating and demoralising. Having PND is not a reflection on you, on your love for your baby or on the future you will have as a family.
The sooner you can get help, the better
If you are not coping, either before or after your baby is born, please reach out and get help. Sometimes things can improve with life changes like exercise or more social contact. There are also parenting forums, online mothers groups and local parent groups. If necessary there is medication to help and certainly having your family on board to help you out will make a difference. The sooner you can get help, the easier it will be turn things around. Delaying getting help can mean that you lose the early months of your baby’s life to feelings of sadness, not coping, bonding issues and can potentially be dangerous. If you need help, remember that you and your baby both deserve the best life possible and help is available.
Recovery from PND can happen quickly
Whether through medication or by seeing a therapist, often women make quick progress straightaway. Although complete recovery might be a longer haul, getting the right help can make a difference quickly.
You can take a first step online
Help is available and women can start accessing it rightaway online. Reach out to Beyond Blue – they have a stack of resources on their site, as well as an online forum where you can talk to other mums. They can also put you in touch with the right professionals and support when you decide to take the next step.