Q. I'm pregnant and have been concerned about the way I've been feeling. Sometimes I cry for no real reason, and I'm anxious most of the time.
A. While some women feel a sense of well being and happiness during pregnancy, others (about 15-30%) may feel unsettled, depressed or anxious. Society considers pregnancy a time of joy, but if depression or other problems occur, some women may feel alone, unsupported and unable to reveal their true feelings. Talking to someone can often help. If you are unable to talk to your partner or family member, talk to someone you can trust, try your midwife, obstetrician or family doctor or ring the Karitane Careline on 1300 227 464.
- Some things you can do. Find a support person who will be able to help after the baby is born.
- Talk to your partner about taking time off after baby is born and give clear suggestions on how they
can help you.
- Be kind to yourself, self care is important - do something that you enjoy.
- Try not to move house or make big changes in late pregnancy.
- If your mood does not improve - seek medical advice and support sooner rather than later.
Q. What is postnatal depression?
A. Postnatal depression(PND) is the name given to the mood disorder that occurs in women in the months following childbirth. It can develop at anytime in the first year after the birth and can begin suddenly or develop gradually. It affects 1 in 7 women and may persist for many months. Many women suffer these symptoms in silence in the belief that nothing can be done to help them, some feel ashamed if they are not coping with motherhood (expecting that this should be a happy time.) Depression can occur at any time in your life. It is sometimes related to a major event or life change that needs to be dealt with.
Symptoms of postnatal depression:
- Feeling sad, irritable or unhappy most of the time
- Anxiety or panic attacks - feeling anxious or panicky most of the time
- Loss of interest in work, hobbies or things that used to be enjoyed
- Chronic tiredness or hyperactivity
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
- Feeling unable to cope with daily tasks
- Negative thoughts or morbid recurring thoughts
- Thoughts of self harm or suicide or thoughts of harm to the body
- Loss of confidence or self esteem
- Feelings of guilt or inadequacy
- Fear of being alone or withdrawing from social contacts
- Inability to sleep or excessive sleep
- Appetite change
For more information about postnatal depression you can download our information sheet .
Q. What can I do if I have postnatal depression?
- Ask a family member or your partner to support you and be around in the first few months after the
- Try not to make major life changes (move or renovate) late in pregnancy or in the first few months
- Restrict visitors when you are feeling unwell, overwhelmed or tired.
- Try to rest or sleep when your baby is sleeping.
- Try to get out in the fresh air when the weather permits, e.g. take your baby for a walk in the pram.
- Get to know your local Child and Family Health Nurse who can refer you for assessment and
support, or you can visit your family doctor and discuss your feelings.
- Treatment options Individual counseling.
- Psychological treatment - therapy aims to support and teach you strategies to deal with symptoms
while addressing the underlying issues that have made you vulnerable to developing problems.
- Support groups.
- Couple counseling - can help couples work effectively together to assist in the adjustment to the
changes experienced before and after childbirth.
- Medication - This is sometimes required and should be accompanied by counseling or other
support. Discuss with your doctor regarding the use of medication and
which antidepressants are safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Where available, admission to a mother- baby unit can be helpful.
For more information about postnatal depression you can download our information sheet on the Karitane Website.
Q. Do fathers get depressed?
A. Men can suffer from depression too. It is suggested that as many as 1 in 14 new dads may be affected. A new baby brings many life changes and challenges. The impact of a new member of the family and adjusting to everything now revolving around the baby might bring feelings of jealousy and resentment. Some men find it difficult to adjust to life as a new father and may experience frustration and helplessness and find it difficult to talk about their feelings. Men can present with similar symptoms as women with depression. It is important that these symptoms are recognised and addressed ad early as possible.
Treatment is available once the problem has been highlighted and is similar to the treatment options for women. See above or download a copy of Karitane's postnatal depression.