Five things you probably didn't know about postnatal depression

Think postnatal depression is just for women? Think again! Here we explore some common misconceptions about postnatal depression. 

The journey to parenthood can be exciting and joyous. And also sleep deprived, uncertain, busy and sometimes just plain scary.

There’s no denying that we adore the little cherubs that enter our lives, but that first year (and beyond!) can be tough.

Our lives can be turned upside down. This rollercoaster ride of parenthood can see us feeling invincible one day and filled with self-doubt, guilt and anxiety the next. Our hormones are in the front seat and our emotions are the dutiful passenger tagging along for the ride.

Not quite what they show in the commercials, huh?

We’re becoming more aware of postnatal depression (PND), and what it entails, but there’s a few things that perhaps aren’t as well known:

1. Men can get postnatal depression too

Yep. It’s true. Often we only hear about women getting PND, but increasingly we’re finding that men can also be affected, up to one in ten men in fact.

Male postpartum depression can occur independently of their partners, and often escalates after six weeks through to six months. It can be even harder for men to acknowledge PND and to seek help as it’s often seen as a ‘female issue’.

It is definitely not. Dads often worry about the same things that mums do. Find out more here.

2. PND can happen even if you’ve never had depression before 

PND does not discriminate. While those who have had depression before are certainly at greater risk, PND can develop even if you don't have a history of depression.

Data from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey reported that of all the diagnosed cases of depression in mothers, just over one in five women were diagnosed with depression during the perinatal period (from pregnancy through to bub's first birthday).

Depression during pregnancy (antenatal depression) affects about one in ten women, another fact many people aren’t aware of.

3. PND can come and go

We often associate the development of PND within the first few days and weeks of birth, but it can actually happen anytime after birth. Many women experience it within the first four months, but it can also happen later in their journey as a mother. 

This is important to remember, as often parents will dismiss symptoms, thinking that they’re past the ‘window’ of PND. Adding to this, PND can be seen as a ‘one off’ issue, but it can re-emerge. It’s not always a case of PND going away and staying away. Just as our moods fluctuate given the phase we’re in, so can depression and PND. Thus it’s important to be aware, and to continue to seek support, even if you’re feeling better.

4. PND isn’t always visible from the outside

PND is a continuum, and everyone's symptoms are different. It is easy to assume that someone with PND would be excessively teary and sad, but that might not always be the case. They may seem to be a ‘worrywart’ or they might seem like they have a short fuse. Others might feel numb, or come across as absent minded. 

Many parents carry on, not realising they’re experiencing PND, because they just get on with their day. They might feel numb, or tired, but otherwise functional. It doesn’t mean they’re suffering any less. 

5. You can still get depression even if you haven't physically given birth

Parents of adoptive children, or children born by a surrogate can also get a form of postnatal depression.

We often think this kind of an issue is exclusive to biological parents, due to the shifts in hormones, and the journey that the body and mind has gone through, but it can certainly impact parents who have adopted children too.

While they might not have had the physical stress of birth, there are many other associated stresses, from financial strain, possible infertility, time constraints (as we all know how long the journey to adoption can be). Rates of depression in adoptive parents may be similar to postpartum depression in the general population.  

The one common theme in each of these facts? There is still a lot of stigma around PND. 

People often don’t seek treatment because they’re scared to come forward. The other commonality here is that no one is immune. It’s no-one’s fault, it just happens. It’s good to be aware of the signs and symptoms, and if you’re unsure, chat with your GP.  

Bupa Health Insurance

Struggling to cope? Bupa has partnered with the Parent-Infant Research Institute (PIRI) to offer the Parent and Baby Wellbeing Program. Support services are fully covered if you have hospital or hospital and extras cover with Bupa.

Find out more
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