What can I do?
To read the Introducton to Post Natal Depression Click Here
Tell someone: The first and most important thing to do is to talk to someone who understands and can help you to get help.
If you tell someone and they are no help then tell someone else until you find someone who is of help.
Don’t accept the way you are at present: Don’t accept that this is the way you will continue to feel.
- Seek support and treatment from a professional. If you feel unable to do it on your own ask someone to go with you.
- Professional help does not necessarily mean medication.
- Medication does not mean failure or weakness.
- Try some of the ideas in the Self-Help section. You may be too depressed to be able to do any of these things without professional help so seek that help.
- If you are able to manage some self care but don’t improve, then you probably need professional help.
Don’t judge yourself: Stigma is an awful thing and unfortunately there is still a lot of stigma about mental illness. Often people are their own worst critic and judge. It is not your fault that you feel this way and it is not something to be ashamed of.
What can happen?
This depends a lot on how severe the depression is and what support a person has.
- Some women, especially those with less severe illness, can often get better without any formal treatment. Baby might start sleeping better, other stresses reduce, or the cloud lifts for no apparent reason.
- If this is going to happen, things will usually improve within six to eight weeks. Certainly if symptoms have gone on for more than a month or two, help should be sought.
- For some women and their families this can be a terrible time. It may seem like it will go on and on but fortunately it doesn’t.
- With the tiredness, slowness and heaviness of depression it can be very difficult to keep up with the demands of a baby and practical help is needed.
- Depression causes people to think negatively and sometimes this can lead to suicidal or hopeless thoughts. It is important not to be alone with these thoughts – help is needed urgently if someone has these thoughts.
“I couldn’t see a way forward, it seemed hopeless, I felt trapped and wanted to escape and I couldn’t see any other way… I just wanted to die. Fortunately, I told a friend and found there was another way. It is hard to image the hope of spring in the middle of winter. "
- Depression makes it hard to cope with a crying baby which can lead to irritability and even hostility. This can be directed at the baby or others.
- Marriages can be put under a lot of strain when one person has depression - the other partner can get depressed as well.
- Some women will never suffer another episode in their lifetime but others can develop further episodes of depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
There are many different things that can help including:
- Infant cares, such as baby massage.
- Practical supports (paid and unpaid).
- Talking with supportive friends or family.
- Professional talking treatments.
Each of these is covered in more detail in the Treatments section.
Anna had been with her partner for two years. They were both really looking forward to the baby. Everything seemed to be going well. The labour was difficult and Anna had to have a caesarean section but her little daughter was perfect and breastfeeding was established OK.
At home visitors popped in with presents and were very interested in baby Jo, but no one asked how Anna was. Breastfeeding and waking at night for feeds was harder than she thought. After a few weeks she started to feel really tired and got a bit grumpy. Was this how it was meant to be? She knew having a new baby was tiring so she kept going. Then the worry started to set in and she started to think that Jo wasn’t getting enough breast milk as she seemed to be crying a lot.
Anna was feeling very muddled and couldn’t decide what to have for tea – in fact she couldn’t find time to cook tea - or to do any other household chores, as looking after Jo was taking all her time. It was all too much. She started crying for no reason. She couldn’t wait until her husband got home at night but when he did she still felt awful. She started to think she was a hopeless Mum and wasn’t good enough for Jo. At night she kept waking even when Jo was only stirring but still asleep. What was happening? She felt like she was falling into a hole.
A friend had had postnatal depression but she wasn’t going to be like her – and she certainly wasn’t going to take medication – she would just have to struggle on…..
Don’t be like Anna, help does not necessarily mean medication and even if it is recommended, discuss your thoughts with your doctor.