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If you have been feeling low or know of someone who is finding her new role as parent more of a challenge than a joy, you need to know more about PND – postnatal depression or distress. Linda Lewis, research psychologist and author of “When Blessings don’t count”, looks at this issue with great empathy.
I think, or should I say, I hope, that when you embarked on the journey of motherhood, at some stage during your pregnancy or after childbirth, you heard about a condition called Postnatal Distress. For many women it may seem like a foreign concept – “How could I feel anything but joy and gratitude for my beautiful baby”. Yet for others, and I’m talking about up to 3 out of 10 moms, it can feel very different from this and more like – “I know I should be feeling joy and gratitude for my baby, and I wish I was, but being a mom is so different to what I expected.”
For mothers who feel the latter, I want to reassure you that I know that YOU know that you ARE blessed to have your baby and I know that you feel terribly guilty for how you are feeling but when it comes to postnatal distress, your blessings don’t count. What I mean is that you may have all the blessings in the world: a healthy baby, a supportive partner, a lovely family, great support, food on the table and so on but that does not change how you are feeling. And what you may be feeling is:
- Anxious or panicky for no good reason
- Tearful, weepy
- Unable to sleep even when your baby is sleeping
- Like your emotions are on a roller coaster
- Overwhelmed with the “foreverness” of this responsibility
- Scared of being alone with your baby
- Disappointed that you are not the mother you’d always thought you’d be
- Will I ever be ME again?
If you identify with some of those statements then you need to know that you are not alone. What you are feeling is familiar to so many moms and yet so few speak about it. This leaves you feeling alone and so bad about yourself. There’s a few things you need to know:
- You are not alone
- When you get the right support this is going to pass
- You are not to blame – there is a biochemical component in your body which may be causing this
- Other moms may feel the same as you and yet look at YOU and think you look so happy and content – women are masters of faking it
- Moms feel ashamed of their difficult feelings and tend to keep them to themselves for fear of being seen as incompetent or ungrateful
Why is it so vital to recognise and acknowledge that you are feeling distressed?
- You have a baby to take care of
- PND affects the whole family
- A well mother makes for a well family
- We cannot deny that PND affects our children on an emotional and developmental level and so we are obligated to do something about it even if it’s just for your child’s sake.
- The longer you leave it
- The more chance of your feelings and symptoms exacerbating
- The more your relationship with your partner will be compromised
- The more removed you will become from the life you used to enjoy
Now, the important question is: What can I do about it? The 7 most important ones here:
- The most important thing is to DO something about what you are feeling. Don’t normalise it and minimise it and think that it’s just going to go away if you try harder .You need to take action NOW
- Talk to a professional who understands PND (look at contacts below)
- Join a support group (not a mom’s coffee morning)
- Consult a doctor (preferably a Psychiatrist) about medication (most of which are safe while breastfeeding)
- Have your thyroid checked
- Rally in as much support as you can both emotionally and practically
- Take care of yourself – you are the most important person right now and your wellness takes priority over everything else
The National helpline number for the Postnatal Depression Support Association (PNDSA) is 082 882 0072.
By Linda Lewis