Baby blues and postnatal depression – don’t let it catch you unaware

From the moment you find out that you are pregnant your focus naturally shifts to all that is happening in the pregnancy. You want to stay healthy, may attend antenatal classes, choose a birth option and get ready for the big day.  And so it should be.  But are you preparing at all for the period after baby’s birth? I am not talking about figuring out how to change a nappy or how to swaddle baby best. I’m talking about the baby blues and postnatal depression.

READ MORE: What do I need for my newborn baby – free checklist

Although these are the things most mothers worry about in the pregnancy, it’s not really difficult and you will get it right within a few tries.  I am referring to the much-neglected topic of caring for YOURSELF during this period.  As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup! Yet most mothers completely forget that their cups will need some topping-up.

In this article, we discuss baby blues and postnatal depression.

“A well-nourished mom nourishes the world”

This is the true belief of Anneke da Silva, owner of GlowFit Training, a company providing specialist exercise training and supervision for women during and after pregnancy.

​​As there are so many physical and mental challenges in the early months after having a baby, I strongly advise you to put some thought into how you are going to cope with these.  Having strategies and remedies in place to help you ease into motherhood can go a long way in making the process a little easier.

ALSO READ: The baby, the kids, our marriage and time!

Help! I think I might have the baby-blues and postnatal depression

Definitely, the physical discomforts following baby’s birth will also have an effect on mom’s mental well-being. A sore perineal area (after a natural birth) or a painful Caesarean section wound can make it difficult to move around and care for baby.

It takes six weeks after birth for a woman’s body to physiologically return to its pre-pregnancy state. Some things may never be completely the same again. Keep an eye out my next blog on coping with after-pains and caring for a painful perineal area.

Postpartum mood disorders

But for today I want to focus on postpartum mood disorders. These can range from some baby blues on day 3, to full-blown postnatal depression and even psychosis There are various symptoms linked to postnatal depression, and each woman’s experience will differ.

Up to 80% of women experience baby blues, with symptoms like tearfulness for no apparent reason, anxiety, irritability and being over-sensitive. Considering the magnitude of everything happening in your life, these emotions are to be expected. Baby blues should clear up after 2-3 weeks. With support and understanding from those around you, medical treatment should not be necessary.

However, if you feel like these symptoms are not getting any better it may be a sign of something more serious and you should seek further help.

Postnatal depression

Letting postnatal depression go on without intervention can have a massive impact on you, your baby and your family. Sadly postnatal depression is mostly not diagnosed. Many women only realise that they had it years later when they look back at the experience.

Symptoms of postnatal depression

You and your loved ones should be on the look-out for the following symptoms of postnatal depression, which may indicate a problem. You may have all or just some of the below symptoms, in various degrees of severity:

  • Difficulty sleeping, insomnia and exhaustion
  • Lack of energy
  • Low libido
  • Changes in appetite, weight gain or weight loss
  • Excessive worry, anxiety, agitation and weepiness (crying all the time without reason and no comforting works)
  • Guilt and sadness, fear of being alone with the baby
  • Panic, anger and difficulty coping
  • Scary thoughts about yourself or the baby, feelings that the baby is better off without you as their mom
  • Lack of enjoyment of activities that you used to love, can’t find the sense of humour in situations anymore
  • Crying a lot, or not at all, feeling numb or detached
  • No urge to socialise with friends
  • Poor concentration

As you read through the above you will notice that some of it may just be normal with a new baby in the house.

All mothers will feel tired. All will have some level of anxiety, and some days where it feels too much. So how do you know if you should be concerned?

A fantastic tool is the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Questionnaire, a handy tool that was developed to help identify women who need to seek assistance for possible postnatal depression.

You should really seek help if you suspect that you have postnatal depression, or simply if you feel that you are not coping well emotionally. You are NOT alone and the people who love you want to help you!

So where should you start when you think you might suffer from postnatal depression?

  • The first step is finding reassurance and understanding from the people close to you. They won’t know what you are feeling if you don’t tell them!
  • Follow a healthy diet and get some exercise – not always easy to do with a baby, but it should be one of the first steps as a healthy body will always contribute to mental well-being.
  • Consider talking to a postpartum doula.
  • Seek medical help – talk to your doctor and get the right referrals.
  • Have a support system.  Surround yourself with people who want to help you and LET them.  You were never meant to do this by yourself!
  • Understand that this can happen to anyone whether you have a history of depression or not.

You can find help at the following places:

  • PNDSA – Post Natal Depression Support Association: www.pndsa.org.za or sms ‘help’ and your name to 082 882 0072
  • The South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG): www.sadag.org/
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America – Support Groups in South Africa: www.adaa.org

READ THIS: What to expect after giving birth

More tips for a happier postnatal period:

  • Try to get enough sleep (as impossible as this may sound)
  • Ask for help and when someone offers to assist, allow them to help where possible. In fact, for most of these tips you will need some outside support to make it happen.
  • Try to join mothers support groups and get out of the house
  • Take time to still do things that YOU enjoy – it won’t be the same amount of time that you had before, but you should really attempt to not forget about it completely
  • Spend quality time with your partner and nurture your relationship
  • Take every day as it comes and expect the roller coaster of emotions
  • Exercise, even if you just go for brisk walks with the baby
  • Empower yourself with knowledge on the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression
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AnnekeDaSilva

Annéke da Silva completed her degree in B.Sc Human Movement Sciences & Nutrition at the University of Potchefstroom. She was thereafter admitted into postgraduate study where she completed her B.Sc Honours in Sport Science. She spent a considerable amount of time completing the Pre/Postnatal Corrective Exercise Specialist course facilitated by FitForBirth™