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Post Natal Antenatal Depression

Victoria Morrissey
Perth Counsellor & Psychotherapist
Perth, Western Australia

Depression experienced during pregnancy and/or after childbirth is referred to as Perinatal Depression. Depression following the birth of a child is commonly referred to as Post Natal Depression and depression experienced during pregnancy is commonly referred to as Antenatal Depression. Perinatal Depression (PND) is a collective term that is used to describe depression experienced during the period of pregnancy and after childbirth (for approximately two years).

Pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood can be challenging experiences. Often symptoms of depression (and anxiety) go unnoticed or if they are noticed, they are easily justified due to the major life changing event of bringing a child into the world (or additional children). PND has a tendency to creep up. It can begin with mood swings, feelings of irritability, reduced enjoyment in things that previously provided pleasure, and feelings of intermittent sadness. For PND sufferers, eventually the depression interferes with daily functioning and the struggle becomes overwhelming.

It is not uncommon for new mothers to believe that being diagnosed with PND means that they are not good or fit mothers, do not love their children or that they are capable of harming their children and/or themselves. As a result they may experience intense feelings of distress, guilt and shame in admitting that they are finding it difficult to cope and are not as happy as they feel they ‘should’ be.

Symptoms of Perinatal Depression include:

  • Feeling sad and tearful, unable to feel happy or joyful
  • Feeling empty and uninterested in usual pleasurable activities
  • Feeling exhausted, unmotivated and overwhelmed with daily tasks
  • Increased or decreased appetite
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness and questioning ability as mother
  • Isolating self and avoiding contact with friends and family
  • Struggling to focus, concentrate or remember things
  • Doubtful of self and unable to make decisions
  • Lack of self care
  • Fear of their children or for their children
  • Fear of harming child or self
  • Thoughts of running away or suicide

PND affects approximates 10-20% of new mothers and therefore is not as uncommon as many would think. Perinatal depression can affect any new mother. Evidence suggests though that there is an increased risk if the following has been experienced.

  • Previous depression or family history of depression or mental illness
  • Complications with pregnancy or birth
  • Difficulties or stressful events in other areas of life
  • Problems with health of the baby
  • Unmet expectations of pregnancy and birth (including problems breastfeeding etc)
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Alcohol/drug use
  • Being A single parent or experiencing relationship difficulties
  • Lack of external support

Perinatal depression can be distressing. It can also affect relationships with partners, other family members and friends who are trying to help but are unsure of what to do or how to handle things.

If you think you may be suffering with Perinatal Depression (Antenatal or Post Natal depression), there are a number of things that you can do that will help you on your journey to recovery.

TREATMENT OPTIONS

Counselling

Counselling is an effective way to treat depression and anxiety. Counselling can assist individuals and families who are experiencing depression or anxiety, understand their feelings and what they might need in order to manage and cope.

Some of the benefits of Counselling are

  • Someone to listen to you without judgement or bias
  • Gaining some understanding of the reasons you feel the way that you do
  • Being able to recognise helpful and unhelpful thoughts and behaviour
  • Receiving support and assistance in developing strategies and tools to help you manage
  • Increased self support
  • Identifying your needs and exploring how to get them met

Medication

Medication prescribed by a health professional can restore the body’s balance and help relieve the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Research suggests that the combination of medication and counselling is effective in combating depression and anxiety.

Medication comes with benefits and risks that will be discussed between yourself and your doctor (taking into account your individual situation, pregnancy, breastfeeding etc).

Groups

Therapy Groups – Group therapy usually consists of between 6 – 10 people and a therapist who facilitates the group. Members of the group experience similar issues and come together in a respectful and safe environment to support and encourage each other. Group therapy is a way of identifying and expressing your feelings and experiences while developing your awareness and self support. For further information www.perthclinic.com.au or www.blackdoginstitute.com.au

Peer Support Groups – Peer support groups are not therapy groups. They are groups that consist of individuals who meet as equals and support each other mutually in a non-therapeutic environment. All group members share similar issues, interests or commonalities. ‘From the Heart WA’ runs peer support groups for women (and plan to run groups for men too) suffering antenatal and postnatal depression. The groups are run by a trained facilitator who has recovered from perinatal depression.

Supported Playgroups – Playgroup WA established a supported playgroup for women with PND in 2009. The playgroups are run by a coordinator who assists with organising and planning interactive stimulating activities for the children and parents to participate in. Supportive playgroups encourage members to develop support networks within the groups. For further information contact Playgroup WA on 1800 171 882

Other things to do

  • Ask for help. Visit your Doctor, Obstetrician, Child Health Nurse or Counsellor
  • Maintain contact with family and friends, try not to isolate yourself
  • Communicate your feelings with your partner or a trusted family member or friend
  • Try to maintain a balanced diet and exercise
  • Try and get enough sleep
  • Take some time out for yourself regularly

As a mother, your value is unquantifiable. It is important that you look after yourself. Take time to nurture yourself, whether this be, going for a coffee, a walk or catching up with friends – you being well is a gift to your family. Adjusting to your body, lifestyle and new routine can be daunting before, during and after childbirth. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself. Regardless of whether this is your first baby or third, the change in dynamics within the family can take some adjusting to. Be mindful of unrealistic expectations or comparisons. Were all unique and so are our families.

If you would like to learn more about PND or if you would like to make an appointment, Victoria can be contacted by phone or email.



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