By Cheryl Fingleson
Adjusting to parenthood is tough going and it’s natural for parents – both mums and dads – to feel overwhelmed by their new normal.
But when the baby blues last longer than a few weeks or so, it’s important to consider whether postnatal depression or anxiety has set in.
PND develops between one month and a year after having a baby and affects around one in seven women and 5% of new dads. It’s not you, it’s PND…
Here are some telltale signs to look out for.
1 // Withdrawing from contact and social situations
Women with PND often describe feeling as though they’re in a bubble and feeling removed or separate from other people, even in company. You might not be returning phone calls or feel reluctant to meet up or socialise.
2 // Tearfulness, irritability or sadness
You might feel overwhelmed by things that never used to bother you. You may cry frequently, or feel generally sad and upset. Alternatively, you may feel emotionless and flat.
3 // Anxiety
You might feel intense or fleeting feelings of panic and worry. You might feel overly anxious about your baby’s health, safety or behaviour, the future, events, people or places.
4 // Change in appetite
Has your appetite changed? Are you eating more than usual? A significant change in appetite can signify distress.
5 // Always hyper-critical
Loss of confidence is common in early parenthood, but feeling constantly worthless and useless also takes hold in PND sufferers.
6 // Unable to find joy in things
Women suffering from postnatal depression and anxiety often find themselves no longer enjoying or finding pleasure in things they used to.
7 // Excessive tiredness
Of course every parent suffers from exhaustion, but if your tiredness levels seem excessive – despite what your baby’s doing – then this can be a warning sign.
8 // Panic attacks
This can include having moments when your heart races, or you may have palpitations, breathlessness, shaking or a sense of feeling “detached”.
9 // Fear around bub
Do you fear being alone with your baby? Do you feel you’re not the best person to look after your baby? These feelings of inadequacy can escalate in some cases. When a woman is suffering from postnatal psychosis she may become convinced she – or someone else – will harm her baby if left alone.
10 // Inability to focus, remember or concentrate
Again, these are all signs of early parenthood, but if you sense you are suffering and are finding it hard to cope, it can be a sign of depression.
11 // Risk-taking behaviour
Are you drinking heavily or taking prescription or illegal drugs? You may be self-harming or hurting yourself in other ways. All these are serious warning signs that something is wrong.
What can you do to help yourself?
- Talk to a friend or family member. Open up the conversation and share your feelings, don’t feel scared. Text them to start the conversation if you find this less confronting.
- Seek help from a PNDA association such as cope.org.au, gidgetfoundation.org.au or panda.org.au. They offer amazing support, often involving real mums who have been where you are.
- Accept help from friends and family when they offer.
- Make time for yourself and don’t feel guilty. You are entitled to have your own life.
PANDA supports women, men and families affected by depression and anxiety in pregnancy and early parenthood. Call, 1300 726 306 or visit Panda.org.au.