If you've just had a baby, or know a new mum, spotting the differences between baby blues and postnatal depression is essential. We've been speaking to midwife, Natasha Cullen, about what signs to look for...
Having a newborn baby isn’t easy – especially if it is your first. Your newborn is handed to you, and then before you know it you are discharged home, on your own, and you have to learn as you go! On top of that, the sleepless nights eventually take their toll, and the anxiety of going out on your on the first time can feel overwhelming. And all of this is totally normal (sorry!).
Most women in the first few weeks will experience a huge range of emotions – feelings of anxiousness and worry, not to mention being exhausted from lack of sleep. Many new mums also feel trapped because they are the only ones who can feed their baby (if breastfeeding), and often have bouts of crying over things that wouldn’t normally be an issue. Appetites changes, insomnia can kick in, and just general concerns about being a good mother are all too real. These initial feelings are often referred to as the ‘baby blues’.
What are the baby blues?
The baby blues are caused by either physical or emotional changes, or both. Hormones play a big part, as well as lack of sleep, and physical changes such as engorged breasts, or recovery pains from birth – these are all contributing factors. You may also feel overwhelmed with the new responsibility of being a mother!
Baby blues normally go away on their own – to help yourself feel better, make sure to look after yourself as much as possible, and get rest wherever you can. Don’t feel guilty about having to give baby to dad or a family member whilst you have a rest if you need it – your body has gone through a lot during pregnancy and childbirth, so you need to remember ‘self care’ and to have a break. Try to also go for a short walk to get fresh air every day – getting out of the house can help you feel better! Also do make sure you lean on friends and your support network if you are struggling. Sometimes it really helps when you hear that another new mum feels like they’ve been hit by a bus too!
So when should I worry about postnatal depression?
If you’ve been feeling down, helpless, and you don’t have interest in your baby or usual activities you find fun, and it has been going on for longer than two weeks, then it is worth popping along to your GP. Your GP will ask some questions, and refer you for the help that you need.
There is NOTHING to be ashamed about by saying you have postnatal depression. It does not make you a bad parent, and no one will take your baby away because of it (a frequent concern of parents). In fact, recognizing that you need help, and seeking it, makes you an excellent mother, because it means you will get the help you need to provide your baby with the love and support they need.
Postnatal depression is more likely to be triggered if:
- You have a history of mental health problems either earlier in life or during your pregnancy
- You have no close family or friends around to support you
- You have a poor or testing relationship with your partner
- You’ve recently been dealing with stressful life events (moving home, relationship breakdowns, illness, etc)
- You have have a difficult baby.
We all need to watch out for each other – especially if you are an expat who doesn’t have family here. So if you have a new mum friend, even if it isn’t her first baby, just ask her “Are you okay?”, and keep checking in. And if you are a mummy who feels that perhaps the baby blues are not passing, or that you could be suffering from postnatal depression, please do seek help. You can approach a GP, a good friend, a partner, a midwife: but do speak to someone.
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