Being diagnosed with postnatal depression (PND) can come as both a shock and a relief. You may feel shocked that you have depression but relieved to know why you’ve been feeling this way. PND is common – it is a medical condition, it can be treated, and you can recover. Here is some information and resources to help you to identify typical PND symptoms and recover from PND.
Do I have PND?
Once you’ve had your baby, there’s a lot to take in and many adjustments to be made. It’s quite common to have the ‘baby blues’ and feel low, anxious, or tearful for a few days or weeks after the birth. PND is worse than that; it’s a lasting depression that is associated with childbirth.
PND symptoms can include on-going sadness, loss of enjoyment, irritability, feeling overwhelmed, anger, negative thinking, or an inability to make decisions. If these or similar symptoms continue for more than a week or two in the first year or so after the birth; you might have PND and not know it. It’s important to:
- tell someone straight away – don’t keep it to yourself. Discuss how you are feeling with someone as soon as possible – your partner, midwife, Plunket nurse, close friend, neighbour, or relative. Often, other people can see that you are not feeling like yourself, but they may not know what to say. If you raise it with them then you can openly discuss it and work out what to do next
- learn about what PND is and what the symptoms are
– To understand what PND is, visit http://pnd.org.nz/pnd/what-is-pnd/ or http://www.mothersmatter.co.nz/Post-Natal-Depression/Default.asp
– A full list of PND symptoms is at http://www.mothersmatter.co.nz/Post-Natal-Depression/Symptoms.asp or http://pnd.org.nz/pnd/recognising-pnd/
– A useful tool to identify PND is the short ‘Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Questionnaire’ (EPDS). You can complete the EPDS at http://www.mothersmatter.co.nz/Post-Natal-Depression/Have-I-got-it.asp
- see your health professional as soon as possible, to discuss how you are feeling.
If you’re diagnosed with PND, it’s important for you, your baby, and the health of your family, for you to get better as quickly as possible.
- Follow any recommendations from your health professional on treatment, which may include counselling or medication.
- Book another appointment so you can go back to your health professional with questions, once you have found out more about PND.
Hot tips to help you recover from postnatal depression
There are many ways you can also help yourself to recover from PND, as follows.
- There is excellent information for you and your family on helping you to manage your PND at http://pnd.org.nz/pnd/managing-pnd/.
- Get a copy of the Post and Ante-natal Distress Support Group’s useful ‘PND Support Guide’ by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Remember there is hope – read stories from mothers who have recovered from PND, at http://www.mothersmatter.co.nz/Stories/default.asp and http://www.bewell.org.nz/pnd-stories.
- Talk about your PND – many new mothers experience and recover from PND, but do not talk about it. However, if you do talk about it with your friends and family, you might be surprised that some of them also experienced PND or they know someone who has. It can be reassuring to talk to someone with experience of PND, who you can ask for advice.
- Accept that you have PND – take things one day or hour at a time, reduce your commitments, and sleep whenever you can. Ask your partner, family, and friends for help with tasks, housework, cooking, and childcare. It’s important to have some time for yourself away from your baby each week so you can get some exercise, have a coffee with a friend, or do something relaxing like having a hot bath.
- Eat well and have healthy foods in the fridge and cupboard. Get some exercise – a short walk each day, with your baby in the pram or in a baby carrier, gets you out of the house and helps you feel better.
- Attend a PND support group for support and education to help you to gain confidence and to recover from PND. Contact the following organisations or your health professional to find a local support group.
– Post and Ante-natal Distress Support Group (Wellington): http://pnd.org.nz/. They also provide a telephone support line staffed by volunteers who have recovered from PND or know somebody who has. See http://pnd.org.nz/upcoming-events/
– Post Natal Distress Support Network Trust (Auckland) http://www.postnataldistress.org.nz/
– Nelson Post-Natal Depression Support Network http://www.bewell.org.nz/pnd
- Visit a local Plunket family centre where staff can offer you support and information in a friendly and relaxed environment. Find a centre at http://www.plunket.org.nz/plunket-near-you/ (click ‘family centre’ under ‘Select a service’).
- Read books about PND – visit http://pnd.org.nz/library/ for a list of books you can borrow from the Post and Ante-natal Distress Support Group or visit your local library.
- Keep in regular contact with your health professional so they can monitor how you are feeling and offer you more support if you need it. If required, they can refer you to your local Maternal Mental Health unit for additional, specialised support.
For more information see Kiwi Families article on ‘Post-natal depression’ http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/articles/post-natal-depression.
Other useful links:
- Kiwi Families article on ‘The Baby blues’ http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/articles/the-baby-blues/
- Kiwi Families article on ‘Post natal psychosis’ http://www.kiwifamilies.co.nz/articles/post-natal-psychosis/
- Mothers Matter website http://www.mothersmatter.co.nz/
- Perinatal Mental Health New Zealand Trust website http://www.pmhnz.org.nz/
- Plunket website http://www.plunket.org.nz/
- Mothers Network Wellington website http://www.mothersnetwork.org.nz
- John Kirwan ‘Find Your Way Through Depression Online’ http://www.depression.org.nz.