Post Natal Antenatal Depression
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
- Increased or decreased appetite
- Feelings of guilt, hopelessness and questioning ability as
- 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
- 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
- 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.
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
- 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 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).
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
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
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
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
- 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.
Phone:0438 983 590
Psychotherapist and Counsellor
Click here to go to Victoria Morrissey's page