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Tresillian - It's in our nature to nurture
Health Professionals Allied Health

Allied Health

The Perinatal, Infant and Early Childhood mental health team includes psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, psychiatrists in training, occupational therapists and clinical nurse consultants and provides multidisciplinary, wrap around support to meet your needs. The team will assist you to manage your emotional health and provide a safe reflective space to ensure a positive, secure relationship is developing between you and your infant.  Tresillian also offers groups to support your emotional wellbeing. Tresillian’s Vision is that ‘Every Child has the best possible start in life’ and we understand the profound effects of mental health on parental and child wellbeing and flourishing – ‘It’s in our nature to nurture.’

What is Postnatal Depression

The symptoms of postnatal depression are the same as depression experienced at other times in life. In Australia, postnatal depression and anxiety affect one in five mothers and one in ten fathers. Postnatal depression can start suddenly after the birth or develop slowly over time and can also be present during the pregnancy. Postnatal depression affects everyone differently, depending on your own individual circumstances. Symptoms can be mild, or moderate to severe. Sometimes people experiencing postnatal depression think about dying or not wanting to be here anymore. This is part of the illness and can be treated. 

If you or someone you are supporting is experiencing low mood, having trouble concentrating, not interested in things and lacking energy, you – or they – might have postnatal depression. If you are experiencing postnatal depression, you probably have a lot of questions. some of the most common questions are answered below:

I’ve just had a baby; shouldn’t I be happy?

Postnatal depression can happen to anyone and there are many reasons, here are just a few:
1.    There have been changes to your blood “chemistry” – things like iron, hormones and vitamins – that are usually more stable have changed a lot during pregnancy and after the birth. You should have a check-up with your health professional to make sure there is no other cause for the symptoms you are experiencing.  
2.    There might be a family history of depression, and this can make you more vulnerable to experiencing depression also.
3.    If you have had depression in the past, you are more likely to experience it again. 
4.    It can be daunting to become a parent and have new responsibilities. There are many changes to your life when you have a baby and only after the baby arrives do new parents fully realise the changes. It’s natural to experience a period of adjustment for both parents. 

Postnatal depression is an illness, just like having a cold. You don’t have control over catching a cold and you didn’t choose to experience postnatal depression. You can love and want your baby and have postnatal depression.  

If I get more sleep, will I get better without help?

The answer to that question is as different as the people who have postnatal depression. What we know is that early support is better than waiting and delaying the start of your recovery. If you can speak to your health professional early about how you are feeling, they can check for low iron and other reasons that you may be experiencing postnatal depression. Your medical professional can ask you some brief questions to see if you have mild, moderate or severe symptoms. Moderate to severe symptoms will benefit from some intervention, such as seeing a counsellor and/or considering some medication to help speed up the process of recovery. Mild symptoms most often improve by speaking to a counsellor. The sooner you seek help, the sooner you will start feeling better. A mental health professional can also help you recognise the signs that you were becoming depressed and find ways to improve your overall mental wellbeing to stay well. 

My partner (mother, father, friend) doesn’t understand what I am going through, how can I help them understand?

You might ask them to read this page and the link below to more detail about the symptoms of postnatal depression. You could also invite your support person to part of a session with your mental health professional to help them understand your experience and work on ways they can support you to get better. 

There is a lot more detail about the signs of postnatal depression here [link to the next topic “how to spot the signs of postnatal depression”]. 

Does my postnatal depression affect my baby?

The good news is that postnatal depression can be treated and have you back on the path to enjoying parenthood and delighting in your baby. Research has shown that your baby’s first 2000 days of life – up until five years of age and including the time in utero - is a time of huge growth and development with 90% of your child’s brain growing during this time.  A high quality, strong emotional attachment with you has a positive impact on your child’s mental health, and their physical and social development. Parental depression can interfere with your ability to develop a strong, healthy attachment with your child. However, identifying early that you’re struggling and seeking help allows you to receive the care and treatment you need to return to health and focus on your child during those first 2000 days. Babies and young children delight in your attention, such as when you are talking to them, playing, and giving cuddles. These interactions support your baby to learn about their emotions and relationships to give them the best possible start in life. 

Tresillian can provide free confidential mental health assessment and support for parents with infants and children 0 – 5 who access Tresillian services in metro Sydney, Canberra and regional sites across NSW and in northern Victoria.  When seeking Tresillian support, please feel confident to reach out to staff if there are feelings of distress or anxiety, or if it feels difficult to connect with your infant or child. Tresillian staff can provide one on one support via Day, Residential and Virtual services, but also Tresillian has a team of committed mental health practitioners to provide specialist support if needed.  

The symptoms of Postnatal Depression are the same as depression experienced at other times in life. Sometimes it is difficult to recognise postnatal depression because many of the symptoms can be explained by being a new parent (or being in the late stages of pregnancy): you’re exhausted; you find it hard to complete tasks or concentrate for long periods; you feel guilty about not seeing your friends or your family; and you can’t do the activities you usually enjoy. Isn’t that just the deal now that you’re a parent? Not exactly, let’s explore the symptoms of depression and how they might show up in the postnatal period. It may surprise you to learn that non-birth parents can experience depression in the postnatal period too, with non-birth parents experiencing significantly more depressive symptoms in the postnatal period than the average person. 

Below are some of the signs that you, your partner, or a loved-one may be experiencing postnatal depression:
1.    Depressed mood. You might feel sad, empty, numb or hopeless and - the most surprising one – sometimes people are irritable or easily frustrated.  Others might notice that you’re teary or “touchy”, reacting with strong emotions to things that normally wouldn’t bother you. If these feelings are present most of the day, nearly every day, you might be experiencing depression.  
2.    Loss of interest or pleasure. You’re not interested in, or enjoying, all activities most of the day and nearly every day.  Now that you’re a parent, it might be hard to find the time for many of the activities you previously enjoyed with a little person to care for, but you would generally expect to maintain interest in those activities and hopefully also to enjoy your new role as a parent. If nothing “sparks joy” you might be depressed.
3.    Feeling either highly restless or fidgety or the opposite. Having difficulty getting moving or being clumsy and uncoordinated.  Being unable to sit still, or dashing about without purposeful movement; pacing; tapping fingers; and abruptly starting and stopping tasks, or feeling sluggish and having difficulty with tasks requiring hand-eye coordination, and/or reacting to situations slowly, can be signs of depression. 
4.    Feeling worthless or guilty over things that aren’t in your control nearly every day can also be a sign of depression. It’s normal to feel guilt sometimes about things we might have done but if you are consumed with guilty thoughts, blaming yourself for things that were not in your control and feeling useless or worthless, you might be depressed. 
5.    Experiencing decreased concentration nearly every day which can cause indecisiveness, or difficulty focusing on a task and seeing it through to completion can be a sign of depression. Some people notice they cannot follow the story line of movies or TV shows and struggle to engage in conversations and they might often feel overwhelmed. 
6.    Thoughts about suicide or not wanting to be here anymore are also a sign of depression. Many people find these thoughts distressing and unwanted, and much like a cold or flu, they are a sign of being unwell and can be treated. If you have these thoughts, even if you don’t have any of the other symptoms, you should speak to a health professional as soon as possible to access some support.

The next three symptoms are a little harder to assess in a new (or expecting) parent, you’ll see why as you read below:

7.    Changes to your sleep – such as difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking or sleeping too much. It’s to be expected in the early stages of parenthood that you might not be getting much sleep. However, if you are unable to sleep even when your baby is sleeping, or you are sleeping a lot more than you usually do and find it hard to get out of bed, you might be experiencing depression. Some people find that their mind is busy, and they struggle to fall asleep due to worrying about things. Others find they fall asleep but wake frequently, with lots of thoughts or anxious feelings. The thoughts and feelings accompanying the lack of sleep are the clue that this could be depression, rather than simply being sleep changes due to new parenthood. 
8.    Fatigue or loss of energy – like the symptoms about sleep changes, it is to be expected that you might be more tired than usual now that you are a parent. However, if you feel exhausted and tired out for no good reason, most of the day, nearly every day (even if you did get a good night’s sleep) you might be experiencing depression. 
9.    Weight loss or gain – of course, the birth parent has experienced both weight gain and loss due to pregnancy and giving birth. Breast-feeding also results in weight fluctuations. Sometimes when people are depressed, their appetite changes: they can sometimes feel nauseous and disinterested in food, or they find themselves eating a lot more, as a form of comfort. If you notice that you’re not interested in food, or the thought of eating makes you feel nauseous, or you’re binge-eating, this might be a sign of experiencing depression. 

If you’re experiencing five or more of the above symptoms, you might have depression.  It is important to see your GP or other health professional to check whether your symptoms could be caused by an underlying medical issue. Your GP can develop a wholistic plan with you to return you to full health. The plan might include referring you to a psychologist for counselling.