Post Natal Depression

It is natural to have moments, hours or even days of feeling rather anxious, miserable or depressed when you have a new baby. These feelings can also be present during pregnancy.

Exhaustion alone can generate these feelings and strip you of your normal coping mechanisms, sense of humour and perspective.

It can be helpful to see anxiety and depression as experiences most mothers will experience, as a continuum that we all slide up and down, depending on current circumstances.

If your mood remains persistently low over a long period of time, you may be experiencing post (or ante) natal depression.

This doesn’t mean you are not coping as a mother/parent. It may however signify that you need some support, to help make sense of your feelings and enable you to have a more positive experience of being a mother/parent.

Symptoms of Post Natal Depression

  • You may feel very grey, bleak and hopeless and it may be hard to imagine ever feeling different
  • You may feel numb and exhausted
  • You may feel disinterested in everything, which may include your partner and your baby
  • You may feel overwhelmed, inadequate, unable to cope, tearful or irritable
  • You may find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions
  • You may lose your appetite and have difficulty sleeping
  • You may feel anxious about things that wouldn’t normally bother you
  • Sometimes this can lead to obsessive fears about your baby’s well-being
  • Sometimes you may have thoughts about harming yourself or your baby

Causes of Post Natal Depression

The research has yet to pin-point the causes of post natal depression but it seems that there is a complex interplay between social, emotional and hormonal factors.

If you are feeling isolated and alone, with no physical or emotional support, you might be more vulnerable to exhaustion and feeling overwhelmed.

Other worries such as financial difficulties or relationship issues may increase your feelings of stress.

Many mothers who are anxious or depressed are filled with thoughts that they are somehow ‘not good enough’ as a mother. There are many experiences that can leave women feeling as though they have failed. These might include: a difficult or traumatic birth, ill-health of a baby, difficulties in breast-feeding, a baby who is difficult to sooth.

Earlier experiences:

Sometimes feelings of anxiety or depression can be evoked, as memories of our own early infancy are triggered.

One mother felt angry and persecuted by her second baby’s constant need to be held and comforted. She felt overwhelmed by her baby’s cries. As she explored these feelings she was able to understand that she had taken in how her own mother had felt when she was a baby. Separating out her own feelings was helpful and lessened her feelings that she was being attacked by her baby.

She had always felt that she had been a ‘bad baby’. These feelings translated in to a feeling that she was also a ‘bad mother’. Her baby’s cries seemed to accuse her of that. Talking about these feelings enabled her to see that her mother’s feeling of being overwhelmed was not her fault and didn’t mean she was bad. This enabled her to feel better about herself as a mother and more confident that she had something to offer her baby. Very quickly she settled with her baby, who sensed that she was less anxious.

A death of a sibling, early separations or losses might also evoke feelings from the past.

Help Available

There are many sources of help. Your GP or health visitor may provide a safe place to talk through your concerns and provide practical, physical and emotional support.

It is possible to talk through your feelings and make sense of them. This can help you manage your feelings more positively and feel more empowered as a parent.

At the Kingston Post Natal Counselling Service we have worked with many parents to help them with a wide range of issues.

Early intervention can help prevent difficulties from escalating. Looking after yourself will help you to look after your baby (or children) and will enhance your enjoyment of parenthood.