Maternal Mental Health Week 1st-6th May 2017
Maternal Mental Health Week has been organised by the Perinatal Mental Health Partnership, the purpose and focus of this week is that mothers, fathers and families are aware of where they can seek support for perinatal mental health problems.
Maternal Mental Health Matters – #maternalMHmatters.
What is Postnatal Depression (PND)?
Postnatal is the term used to describe the period after childbirth. Postnatal depression is a common mental health problem that effects more than one in ten women in the first year after giving birth; usually present within the first 6 weeks (Nhs.uk, 2016). It is not limited to the birth mother- fathers and partners can also experience PND.
Having a baby is a life changing event and can cause stresses and experiences that may trigger depression. This can occur, not only for first time parents, but also for experienced parents.
PND is a serious matter, although can often be misinterpreted as the ‘baby blues’. Baby blues are a short term emotional period that can transpire in the first week after giving birth (mind.org, 2016). This emotional state can affect 85 percent of mothers as opposed to the 15- 20 percent affected by PND (nice, 2014). Giving birth is an overwhelming experience and with it comes a wide range of feelings and emotions, further affected by changes to our bodies, to routine, sleepless nights and adapting ourselves to meet the needs of our little one. These blues happen to the majority of parents and although it may not feel like it at the time, they only last a few days on average. It is imperative to seek help and support as soon as possible if your symptoms last longer than a few days and if you think you or your partner may be experiencing signs of PND.
Signs and Symptoms
PND can develop quickly or gradually, those who experience symptoms over time may not recognise that they have PND. The following signs and symptoms highlight key factors contributing to PND, it is possible to have only some or even all of these symptoms.
Persistent sadness and feeling low:
- A recurrent feeling of unhappiness
- Being tearful
- Generally feeling down.
Tiredness and trouble sleeping:
- Lack of energy
- Feeling tired/exhausted
- Even though you are tired, you may have trouble falling to sleep
- Wake often through the night
- Fall asleep during the day
- Either a loss of appetite or
- A desire to comfort eat.
- Difficulty concentrating
- Difficulty connecting with others
- Being angry with others
- Loss of interest in activities you would normally enjoy.
- Feeling unloved
- Difficultly bonding with your baby
- Feeling of guilt
- Loss of confidence
- Feeling that you cannot cope.
- Worries about your baby and their health and development
- Worrying about your capability as a parent
- The belief that you will never overcome these feelings.
Severe symptoms can also include:
- Thoughts of self-harming
- Thoughts of harming others
- Feeling that others would be better off without you
- Psychotic symptoms
- Hearing voices
It is important to seek help immediately if you experience any of these symptoms, remember you are not alone and there is support available to you. To seek help as soon as possible will enable you to overcome these feelings sooner.
Help and support including national charities and organisations
PND can happen to anyone, it’s not your fault, it is not the result of something you have or haven’t done and it certainly does not denote you as being an inadequate parent. Depression is a recognised illness and there is a range of support and strategies available.
Your GP or health visitor can help, support and signpost if you think you may be experiencing signs of PND. Health Visitors are not only there for your baby, most have been trained to recognise occurrences of PND and are able to refer you to organisations that can help in your local area.
In addition, there are many charities and organisations that can help you; below is a non-exhaustive list:
Association for Postnatal Illness
Helpline: 020 7386 0868.
Depression Alliance and MIND
Helpline: 0300 123 3393
Tel: 020 7254 6251.
Tel: 0800 068 6368
National Childbirth Trust
Helpline: 0300 330 0700
Helpline: 0843 2898401.
Helpline: 0800 043 2031
Helpline: 08457 90 90 90
Strategies and other support methods.
Post-natal depression can be alleviated and overcome with a variety
of treatment methods from self-help to medications and therapy.
Talking to your partner, your friends and your family about how you are feeling can help to relieve some of the pressure. Allowing others to understand how you’re feeling will enable them to support you, both emotionally and practically; providing a listening ear, seeking support on your behalf, looking after the baby whilst you rest or take time for yourself, to attend appointments etc.
Exercise – exercise releases feel good endorphins that will help you to feel more positive. Whilst it is important to be aware of the postnatal body during exercise, there are groups and classes available for parents and babies to attend together. Little Slingers Babywearing Dance class (endorsed by The BabyWearing Alliance) delivers classes that combine gentle exercise with essential bonding opportunities.
Getting out and about will really help with how you are feeling. Interacting with other parents and families who will feel overwhelmed from time to time, can sympathise with how you are feeling. Attending a group like Sensory Time or a Baby Massage Class will allow for bonding time with your baby/child as well as social time for yourself.
A healthy diet will help to ensure that you are eating enough of the right foods not only benefitting you, but your baby also. Take every opportunity to rest and sleep if you need to.
Medication- in severe cases your GP may prescribe antidepressants.
Local support- Your GP, health visitor and even the internet can help you to find support groups in your local area. Take a friend, partner or family member for moral support and encouragement.
Talking Strategies- be it with your partner, family member, friend or a trained councillor or therapist, talking can help you to express how you are feeling and make sense of your emotions. You are not alone!
Psychological therapy- treatments and therapies are available that will help you to make sense of your feelings and behaviour. Understanding your depression can aid you to learning how to overcome other symptoms.
(Musters, et al, 2014)
Babywearing and PND
Babywearing imparts many benefits both for the wearer and the child. Although Babywearing is not a substitute medication for PND, wearing your child in a carrier can support and help those experiencing symptoms of PND.
Babies are very in tune with their caregiver’s emotional state and behaviour. They are responsive to the caregiver’s mood, if you are feeling worried or anxious, your baby is aware of this and can be unsettled too. The risk factors of PND also include difficulty establishing breastfeeding and feeling like you have a lack of support. Babywearing can:
- Stimulate and promote bonding
- Enable you to carry out daily tasks
- Provides a sleeping environment for your little one. Babies enjoy the comfort that being held close to the caregiver’s chest can bring. Research shows that babies who are carried in a sling or carrier cry less. This is not only beneficial to the baby’s health and wellbeing but also to that of the caregiver.
- Babywearing can help with establishing breastfeeding, you are able to pick up on and respond to your baby’s cues quicker, feed on demand and feed on the go. All of which benefit the parent and the child immensely.
- Transfer of care- Babywearing is a practical method in which care of the child can be transferred to another adult, allowing the baby to experience the benefits of being worn, as well as providing the mother with some time to be alone and to rest.
- Regular walking can be effective for settling a baby. It enables you to partake in light exercise; exercise helps to boost your mind and releases feel good hormones.
In conclusion PND can affect us all, but there are a variety of methods that can help to manage and overcome it. Babywearing can alleviate some of the effects and combined with other methods in the form of a treatment plan, Babywearing can reduce the impact that depression has.
If you need advice or support please get in touch – 0330 043 2181