As a Child and Adolescent Psychologist, I typically write about children and their psychological needs. However, one significant contributor to children’s health is the wellbeing of their caregivers. That is, children often only function as well as their parents, which is why I urge parents to make their mental health and reducing their own stress levels a priority – often easier said than done!
After having a baby, in particular, women are at increased risk of mental health difficulties due to hormonal changes, fatigue, and the huge adjustment that becoming a mother requires. Mood swings and stress are common after having a baby, but postnatal depression (PND) is different from the baby blues. Left untreated, it can affect a mother’s attachment relationship with her baby, her ability to care for the baby, and of course, it affects the mother herself.
Because PND so often goes unrecognised, it is important to be aware of signs and symptoms so that you can get help as soon as possible. These include: finding it difficult to enjoy things that you used to enjoy, feelings of inadequacy, significant change in appetite accompanied by weight loss or weight gain, significant change in sleep, thinking about suicide, feeling hopeless, guilty or worthless.
If you think that you may be suffering from PND, see your GP immediately. Treatment for PND can include appropriate medication, psychological intervention, or a combination of these two. If you believe someone you know may be experiencing PND, urge her to seek help.
There continues to be significant misinformation and a lack of awareness about PND. A lack of social support and feelings of shame can prevent some women from seeking the help they need. Additionally, logistical barriers, such as having someone available to watch the baby during therapy appointments, can block access to treatment. However, there are several organisations, such as Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) that can offer more information to women in need.
Locally, the Sunshine Coast Psychology Clinic & PND Centre has psychologists with years of experience in the area of perinatal mental health and will be holding an annual morning tea with entertainment in November to raise awareness about PND. Increased PND awareness will lead to more women being identified and treated, and better outcomes for women, children and families.