Mother cuddling baby

Women's health

Why we need to talk about postnatal depression

Postnatal depression affects mothers after they’ve had a baby, but what can you do to support yourself and loved ones through this difficult time?

Clinically reviewed on 5/5/2022 by Bryony Lathbury

Women’s mental health has long been under-researched and under-reported in both academia and media1, particularly when referring to perinatal mental health issues – an inequality which has been consistent throughout history. The term perinatal depression refers to both postnatal and antenatal depression. From what is often portrayed as the ‘happiest’ moment of your life, for some women it can be unbearable.  As many as 20% of pregnant people experience mental health problems during or in the first year after pregnancy2. And, with around 1 in 5 women experiencing a perinatal mental health problem3, it’s proving to be an epidemic health professionals can’t ignore. 

How to help yourself

 

Postnatal depression can be caused by multiple factors, including the fluctuation and drop in hormones your body experiences during and after giving birth4. But, regardless of how it’s happened, if you do find yourself struggling it can be really challenging. And it’s important to know support is out there for you.

Be that leaning on your network of family and friends or seeking the support of a GP or mental health professional, there are resources available to you. Aside from your network there are self-care tips which have been recommended by organisations such as the MMHA (Maternity Mental Health Alliance) and mental health charity Mind.

Having a new baby can be challenging for a number of reasons including lack of sleep and generally just having the responsibility of a new tiny human! This can make day-to-day tasks overwhelming so make sure you ask for help. Where you can, try to meal prep for the whole week to save both time and money.

Try and sleep (where you can)! Easier said than done but, when you can, be that in the afternoon or 10am when your baby goes down for a nap try and grab some much-needed shut eye. Sleep may be inconsistent but make sure you, your partner or family member take turns to get some rest. And above all, give yourself a break. No one knows what they’re doing, so know you’re doing your best and that’s enough – you are enough!

Mother cuddling newborn baby

How to help your partner



Seeing the person you love the most go through tough times is hard to watch. But there are things you can do to support your partner when they’re struggling with postnatal depression.

Listen and be there for them, create a non-judgemental space for them to express how they feel without the fear of being judged. Postnatal depression can be scary. With some mothers experiencing suicidal thoughts and thoughts of harming their children. The taboos surrounding these thoughts can exacerbate the symptoms and stop people seeking professional help through fear of what will happen if they admit to having these thoughts. Listen and support your partner without fear or judgement.

Pull your weight in the home. Simple things such as running a bath, doing the night feed and cooking dinner can all help towards relieving stress and anxiety for the new mother. Allowing your partner to catch up on sleep, get some light exercise or see a friend will help them to be able to keep up with their self-care.

Encourage your partner to seek help. Whether that means regular counselling sessions, medication or both, professional help may be necessary to help you and your partner navigate through this difficult time. Remember, you aren’t alone. 

How to help your friend, family member or colleague

 

Although you might not be waking up and spending each and everyday with your friend who is going through postnatal depression, there are many ways you can be supportive – whether that’s in person or remotely.

Be contactable. Be that by text, call or carrier pigeon, having someone to rant/ support you when you’re at your lowest who isn’t your immediate family or significant other can be really helpful. Prepare and drop round a meal and groceries. Getting time to cook or shop when you have a new-born is hard, make it easier for your friend!

Let them know help is out there. As well as your great support as a friend, they can reach out and get 24/7 digital support via their GP, as well as great digital support networks for new mums. Organisations such as Tommy’s, PANDAS foundation and MMHA provide free resources and helplines for families going through antenatal and postnatal difficulties.

No one wants to go through postnatal depression but it’s an unfortunately common occurrence for new mums. It’s important to remember support is out there. Stay strong and seek professional help, there is always someone willing to listen.

Author Kelly Maskell

Written by Kelly Maskell - Simplyhealth Marketing Executive

Woman with arms around two friends on a hike

 

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Other articles around women's health, including menopause and pelvic health, written with the support of the Lady Garden Foundation.