Post birth signs you may need some help

Mums can often feel tired and teary after having a baby. But what are the signs that your feelings are more than just the baby blues?

Becoming a mum is perhaps the biggest, most life-changing event you will ever experience. 
After giving birth, changes can happen on so many different levels:
  • Physical: your body shape and size
  • Mental: your new identity as a parent
  • Lifestyle: your priorities and focus
  • Emotional: your hormones and the effects of sleep disturbance

However, there is so much focus on the physical changes that the emotional and mental adjustments are often not recognised or acknowledged.

The Baby Blues

One common change that impacts mood is the ‘baby blues’, which result from the huge drop in hormones that occurs when we give birth. It usually strikes in the first ten days and can leave us reaching for the tissues and our partner or a supportive friend.

Dr Nicole Highet is Founder and Executive Director of the Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE). She says, “The baby blues affect around 80 per cent of new mums, but pass on their own without the need for any treatment.”

Missing the signs of postnatal depression

Postnatal depression (PND), on the other hand, which impacts an alarming one in seven women, doesn’t usually become apparent until three or four weeks after you’ve had a baby – well after the hormones have settled.
 
Unfortunately, due to the similarities (and the fact that PND isn’t always talked about), mums may often mistake the early signs of postnatal depression as the baby blues. And as a result, the early signs of postnatal depression are missed and so is the opportunity to seek treatment early, which can make all the difference.
 
“The faster you get help, the faster you can recover,” stresses Dr Highet. She adds that there is a greater range of treatment options if you do seek early intervention. 
 
Sadly, people often don’t recognise the symptoms or if they do they may find it difficult to seek help. Instead, they hold on to their ideals of motherhood and ignore or deny the way they are feeling, hoping that (like the baby blues) these feelings will pass – even months after the birth of their baby.

Reach out for help

Research by COPE released in 2014 found that a staggering 74 per cent of mothers who had antenatal (during pregnancy) and/or postnatal depression or anxiety said they didn’t ask for help until they reached the point where they couldn’t cope. 
 
According to Dr Highet you should speak to your GP or Maternal and Child Health nurse if you are experiencing one or more of the following:
  • ongoing feelings of disappointment, guilt or failure
  • self-criticism
  • finding tasks overwhelming
  • viewing things as going badly
  • resenting the fact that motherhood appears to be easier for everyone else
  • finding it difficult to cope or get through the day
  • feeling down about yourself in your new role as a mother
  • having lost interest or pleasure in your life with a new baby
These are just some indications you may be experiencing postnatal anxiety or depression.

Keep it real

Dr Highet also reminds mums to be aware of the pressures around them and the expectations they may be putting on themselves. 
 
“Whilst all the imagery of motherhood in the media around us may look wonderful, this is of course not a true depiction. We need to be mindful of that, be honest about the realities and support each other through the highs and lows that come with a new baby.”
 
“Your emotional and mental health is just as important as your physical health,” she adds. “It is a very vulnerable time, so everyone has to learn about and prioritise the mental health adjustments around having a baby.”

Bupa mummatters

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