After the birth of your baby it is a time when you need to emotionally and physically care for yourself to ensure you can cope with the challenges of being a new parent. A baby needs to have a parent who is able to be responsive to their needs. While some days will be better than others, it becomes more difficult if you are distressed, anxious or depressed. The important thing is to know how to recognize the signs of depression and/or anxiety and seek help early.
- worrying about absolutely everything
- having trouble sleeping
- not feeling well – perhaps you have headaches or other aches and pains
- feeling anxious
- not wanting to get out of bed in the morning
- feeling that you’re not managing to complete practical everyday things, such as family routines
The baby blues occur during the first week after a baby’s birth and last for a few days. It generally tends to clear up after a few days with no treatment except support and understanding.
Postnatal depression is a condition that can last from several weeks to several months. The onset can be any time in the first year after birth. It’s normal for all mothers to experience some symptoms of postnatal depression at times, particularly emotional and physical exhaustion.
If you are feeling any of the following symptoms for two weeks or more it is time to seek help from your family, friends and/or a child and family health nurse or your local doctor:
- a depressed mood
- overwhelming feelings of anxiety
- emotional and physical exhaustion
- tearfulness for no apparent reason
- in some cases dark thoughts, plans or actions that intend you harm
- feeling numb and worthless, empty and sad
Early interventions such as counselling (either individual or group) and, in some instances, medication, are recommended and can make a huge difference.
- Plan regular small amounts of time away from your baby to recharge.
- Care for yourself by paying special attention to your diet, try and exercise regularly and get as much rest as your baby allows.
- It does help to talk to someone about how you are feeling, so confide in a friend or family member
Your baby will need some special attention during this time. Consider these tips:
- It’s really important that you respond when your baby makes a sound, cries or smiles at you.
- Talk and sing to your baby
- Touch and hold your baby and take the time to get to know each other
- Ensure your baby is out of harm’s way in their cot or bassinette – this is one time it’s okay to let them cry. Never shake your baby as it can cause brain damage
- Go into another room and take some deep breaths, make a cup of tea and call a friend or a support service such as the Tresillian’s Parent Help Line or the Tresillian Live Advice where you can talk through your feelings with a child and family health nurse.
- Go outside for a walk or run. If there’s no one to look after the baby, take your baby with you in the pram.
Postnatal depression occurs in up to 16% of women after the birth of their baby, so look out for friends and family with a baby who might be feeling low and encourage them to talk about it and get professional help.