How depression and anxiety can sometimes affect new mums

Up to 20% of women will develop mental health difficulties during pregnancy or within a year of giving birth. Depression and anxiety can be exhausting and frightening. Depression and anxiety are not uncommon, but some mums try to hide how they are feeling because they worry that people will think they are not coping with their baby. Everyone needs some help from time to time and asking for help as early as you can is good for you and your baby and will help your recovery.

Symptoms 

Depression at this time is commonly called 'postnatal depression' or PND for short. It appears as overwhelmingly negative feelings - of loneliness and guilt, anxiety and irritability, tearfulness and exhaustion, anger and frustration. It may affect your appetite, your sleep patterns, your interest in sex and your concentration. For some people the feelings are quite mild, for others they are overwhelming.

Causes

Some women can experience antenatal depression and anxiety during their pregnancy. Different factors can trigger depression in different people. These can range from stressful events and circumstances in your life to the sheer pressures and expectations of parenthood - particularly if your new baby is very demanding or if you don't feel an immediate bond with her. For some people, these feelings can just come out of the blue - and that in itself is extremely stressful and upsetting.

Help is available

Depression varies from person to person - as do its causes, and its treatment. But there is tratment and support available - and the sooner you seek help, the sooner you'll be back to feeling like yourself again.

Risk factors and triggers 

Evidence suggests that risk factors for developing depression include a personal or family history of mental health problems, stressful experiences in your life, recent difficult events or situations, domestic abuse or substance abuse. Mums are therefore envouraged to share that information with their midwife or GP before their baby is born so that signs of depression and anxiety can be spotted early on.

For some women, a traumatic birthing experience - or giving birth to a premature baby or a baby with a health problem or disability - can trigger depression and anxiety. For other eomen or men, lack of support from a partner, friends or family can be the cause, as can anxieties about your finances, housing or lifestyle.

There is no hard medical evidence to support the claim that hormonal changes in your body after the birth can cause depression, although for some women, this may be a factor. It is important to remember that depression is very different from the hormobal 'swing' known as the baby blues and doesn't pass after a few days.

How you might feel

Feeling lonely

For many new mums, it’s not unusual to feel lonely after the birth of your baby – particularly if you’ve given up work, or are no longer able to go out shopping, or on nights out with your friends. And if you don’t have a partner, or close friends and family around you on a regular basis, then it’s especially tough.

Feeling guilty

Society seems to expect all new mums to be delighted when their baby is born and to fall naturally into motherhood. Often, this just isn’t the case, and remember bonding is a journey and a process of getting to know one another. It does not necessarily happen straight away and it feels different for everyone.

Feeling down

Sometimes, even when things seem to be going really well, depression can just come right out of the blue. This can be confusing and upsetting. Feeling down for no reason may make you feel anxious and guilty – and that can make your PND worse. It’s a vicious circle.

How are you doing?

Do you

  • wake up feeling exhausted
  • find it hard to concentrate
  • feel a failure
  • cry and feel tearful at small things
  • feel numb
  • find it hard to enjoy things
  • find it hard to be around others
  • worry all the time?

If you are experiencng some of these symptoms, speak tp a health professional who may recommend supports for you. Remember it's good to talk to your partner, friends or family too.

The important thing is to remember is that you are not alone and that help is at hand.

Last Updated: 24 January 2018
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