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Having a baby is life-changing. When you welcome a new addition to your family you are often on cloud nine. However, many moms experience a mix of overwhelming emotions to go with all that joy.
A few days after giving birth, you could feel more tearful than usual, irritable, anxious, worried about your ability to properly care for your new baby, and exhausted but unable to sleep. This emotional state lasts about two weeks and is called having the baby blues – common enough to be considered normal. However, when it’s not the blues, it’s likely to be postnatal depression (PND) and this can be quite serious. PND involves persistent feelings of sadness, lack of energy, difficulty bonding with your new baby, problems sleeping, and negative thoughts that often include harming your baby.
Postnatal depression usually sets in later and lasts longer than baby blues. Anyone struggling with these symptoms should seek depression treatment immediately.
A closer look at the symptoms
The condition referred to as baby blues includes feeling more tearful than usual because of pregnancy hormones. Crying at game shows or sobbing because your socks don’t match is completely normal, believe it or not. Heightened irritation is also a common symptom – snapping at everyone over the littlest things because again, hormones, but also sleep deprivation. You’re exhausted but can’t get to sleep because baby makes sure to need you just as you nod off.
Feeling overwhelmed by the big change in your life is part of the blues. Worrying all the time about whether you’re doing a good enough job, forgetfulness, and the inability to concentrate as well. But where baby blues differs from depression is that these symptoms are rooted in the physical, emotional and psychological impact of pregnancy and pass within two weeks after giving birth. Baby blues sets in quickly, passes the same, and doesn’t require medical intervention.
Postnatal depression can start any time within the first year after having given birth. Most women don’t realize they are dealing with a condition as serious as this because the onset can be gradual, and therefore confounded with ‘normal’ feelings associated with hormonal fluctuations.
Common symptoms of postnatal depression include feelings of sadness that persist for long periods, lack of energy, feeling exhausted but unable to sleep, loss of enjoyment in activities you used to love, inability to concentrate and make decisions, feeling insecure about being able to care for your baby, irritation, quick to anger, apathy, difficulty bonding with your baby and immense guilt because of it, thinking about harming yourself or the baby.
For Friends and Family
As with other forms of depression, symptoms of PND worsen without treatment and ultimately could endanger the mother’s life or that of the baby. Common signs to look out for include the mother crying for no clear reason, a sense of disconnect – where the mom cares for her baby out of duty but doesn’t really bond with them, withdrawing from social situations, and self-neglect, like not changing their clothes and not bathing. Being able to spot the signs will empower you to make a positive impact on their mental and emotional wellbeing.
What Dr Melissa has to say
Dr Melissa Janse van Rensburg is a medical doctor specialising in psychiatry.
She has a particular interest in pregnancy and post-natal psychiatry and is passionate about female mental health and wellness. She appeared on Die groot ontbyt show where she shed some light on everything related to baby blues. Have a look at what she had to say.
What you can do
Coping with the baby blues is as simple as taking a few extra measures to regulate your daily life. Since a good night’s sleep is out of the question in the early days, commit to sleeping whenever your baby sleeps. This way you will feel more rested and energized. It will also help with your mental acuity, increasing your concentration as well as elevating your mood.
A rested mom is a happy mom. This means you should also set aside time out where you are not ‘on duty’. A bubble bath while someone is watching the baby can work wonders. Follow a balanced and nutritious diet to ensure you replenish whatever you lose through breastfeeding. Accept help where it is offered, and learn to ask for help when you need it.
On the other hand, postnatal depression isn’t something you can magically fix with a bubble bath. If you think you or someone you know might be depressed, it’s best to seek professional help. Speak to your doctor as soon as possible and they will be able to refer you to the right care you need.
Psychiatric clinics are well suited to offer depression help, with specialist staff who can guide and support you in regaining control over your situation to achieve mental and emotional wellness. At ZwavelStream Clinic we specialize in depression treatment, and provide personalized care with the utmost confidentiality. Feel free to contact us if you think you need help and guidance.