It’s Tuesday afternoon, I have just finished a therapy session and I have spent the last 30 minutes playing with my five-month-old daughter, who gives me so much pleasure and makes me smile every day.
Whilst I was considering an appropriate topic for my column, it suddenly dawned on me that not every parent will have the same experience of a young baby. Some will feel ambivalence, others potentially more negative feelings still.
In 2017 a study found that on average between 10-15% of women who are having a baby are affected by what is clinically known as post-natal depression (PND).
An individual with post-natal depression tends to display the same symptoms as depression, usually with symptoms being evident every day for at least two weeks.
Post-natal depression can be extremely challenging as it can affect a woman’s ability to not only look after her baby, but also herself. It can also be very difficult for a partner as they are effectively trying to balance the needs of their baby with trying to support their spouse.
Most of us associate having a child with joy, but for some, life can quickly become overwhelming and the sudden change in lifestyle and priorities can promote feelings of angst and a panic that we are unable to cope.
Whilst it is not common for mothers to actually harm their babies, sometimes a new mum may worry that this will happen, potentially through lack of sleep accompanied with a baby crying uncontrollably. What is more common is this having a further negative impact on a mother’s mental health, rather than her having any ill feelings toward her baby. People ask how you could have such ambivalence toward something which you have created, something which is synonymous with innocence and vulnerability. The answer to this of course is that, it is an illness and not something which a new mum will actively choose.
There can often be a delay in women seeking help because they are unaware they are experiencing post-natal depression. Instead they feel it is a very natural reaction to becoming a new mum and all that that entails. Put simply, unless you have been in that position, it is very difficult to understand post-natal depression. It is another condition where there is a lack of understanding and at times, also a lack of sympathy.
PND is treatable and mothers do come through it with support. It is important, if you are a partner or loved one, to be vigilant for changes in moods and behaviours. If you become aware of this it is always worth speaking to the individual and asking them how they are feeling and coping. Whilst it may be a difficult subject to broach, the positives of being right outweigh the negatives associated with being wrong.