Baby blues: the reality of postnatal depression
Many of us will have heard of Postnatal Depression (PND) from TV shows like Casualty or Doctors, or if we have been concerned for someone perhaps we will have sought support online with the NHS or with the National Childcare Trust. Postnatal depression however is far more than a temporary drama and must be taken very seriously. It is estimated today that 10-15% of mothers experience PND in the UK and the wide-ranging symptoms can manifest in anything from feeling off-key on a daily basis to experiencing suicidal or psychotic thoughts.
In today’s blog we’re going to delve into PND a little more and look at both the unseen symptoms and three of the best ways to start tackling it today.
What are the signs and symptoms of post-natal depression?
Withdrawal – also known as ‘Avoidance Coping,’ the mother may withdraw from or reject outright activities she would usually enjoy, also perhaps denying that anything is wrong. She may be unable to make a decision about what to do in certain circumstances or avoid having an opinion on daily events and activities.
Obsessive problem solving – also known as ‘Problem-focused Coping’ whereby the mother constantly tries to reframe her feelings about maternity through obsessive reasoning and discussion. This may also involve an unusual amount of planning. See also about OCD.
Self-blame and anger – also known as ‘Venting Coping.’ The mother continues to be irritable, negative and either self-blaming or in extreme cases, self-harming. Women diagnosed with postnatal depression often focus more on the negative events when looking after their child, resulting in poor coping strategies and a cycle of shame.
Depressive emotions – such as crying, sleeplessness, despair, confusion, anxiety, hopelessness, irritability, appetite changes or appetite loss are completely common with PND.
Lesser-known symptoms of Postnatal Depression (PND)
As you can see above, many of the symptoms of postnatal depression seem very similar to other types of depression. Some of the lesser known symptoms specific to PND however can include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Bipolar Disorder (BPD), suicidal thoughts and psychosis. While these may seem more on the extreme end of the spectrum, more recent studies have shown that these symptoms should be taken seriously as part of the postnatal
depression cycle and are far more common than is reported.
The self-shaming of the disinterested mother
What very few articles and blogs on postpartum depression speak about is the equally concerning issue of how mothers can feel, and act, towards their babies during this time. Ranging between anything from simply feeling disinterested when their baby cries to in some cases opting to leave their babies alone in the house or harming their babies, postnatal depression can bring about worrying behaviours that the sufferer may be too ashamed of to relate to others. This cycle of shame and negative feeling then serves to strengthen the cycle, creating a deeper depression.
Help for postnatal depression using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques
Postnatal depression can be difficult to diagnose since the sufferer may not know they are having difficulty or why they are feeling this way. Furthermore, because it is specific to that period of a woman’s life, approaches such as psycho-analysis, involving looking at past experiences may be less effective in helping the mother to deal with current symptoms on a day-to-day basis.
Based on well-established research and scientific results, the core idea of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is that a persons’ behaviour patterns and emotional reactions are strongly influenced by the thoughts they have about that situation. In other words, how they think and interpret an event affects how they feel and act. We have chosen three practical home applications based on CBT to start to address postnatal depression:
- Checking in daily with a friend or relative. Becoming increasingly aware of how one feels is an important part of over-coming the depression. This could involve scheduling a phone call or a cup of tea meeting where there’s the chance to discuss feelings and ‘check-in’ on oneself, reducing confusion and shame around the depression. The sufferer may also want to work with a CBT therapist. CBT is a collaborative effort between the therapist and the client with a focus on learning how to think differently and then change behaviours accordingly.
- Journaling. Keeping a journal during challenging or upsetting periods can help the mother to get perspective on her feelings and have a neutral place to put her thoughts, however negative. CBT uses rational thought to help motivate change and encourage clients to question some of their emotional responses. It is based on the theory that negative beliefs are just that, beliefs. They are not facts. Journaling can help you identify these negative beliefs and disengage from them.
- Meditation. While sleeplessness may be an issue, rest needn’t be. During whichever period the baby sleeps, mothers are encouraged to take a mental ‘time-out’ and can benefit from using a meditation tool to guide them into a peaceful place of rest and recuperation.
Asking for help with postpartum depression is the first step
Fresh Mind Therapy has helped hundreds of women cope better with post-natal depression and have a more balanced approach to their emotions. At the centre of the FMT practise is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which, as shown in some of the suggestions above, uses practical tools to overcome the heavy symptoms of depression and has a strong focus on relieving yourself of negative feelings in the present moment. If you would like to speak to a professional, qualified and experienced CBT therapist about your feelings since your child was born, get in touch with us now.
*If you or someone you know fear they cannot safely look after their baby, seek help immediately.*
Resources on Postnatal Depression (PND) and Antenatal Depression (AND)
Mind – For better mental health
NCT – The National Childcare Trust
Royal College of Psychiatrists