Having a baby is life changing and becoming a parent is a new, rewarding and sometimes challenging experience.
Nothing can truly prepare you for the lifestyle, emotional and physical changes you will experience as a new parent.
In the early days of motherhood it is common for women to experience a range of emotions in the first 2 weeks after childbirth, from the elation and excitement of the immediate post birth period to times of feeling ‘low’, anxious, confused and tearful.
For some mothers, however, the low feeling lasts longer and may develop into postnatal depression. Postnatal depression affects about 13% of new mothers, and can occur at any time during the first year. Some women with postnatal depression also experience depression during their pregnancy.
There are many causes of postnatal depression such as the hormonal changes following childbirth, the stresses of looking after a young baby and having your sleep disrupted.
Postnatal depression is more severe than 'the blues'. The blues can leave you feeling tearful, anxious and experiencing mood swings in the first 2 weeks after your baby's birth.
Feelings of anxiety, irritability, having difficulty sleeping and a reduced appetite are some of the early signs of postnatal depression, and these symptoms may be noticed before a woman recognises that she feels depressed.
You may experience feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy that do not seem to improve. Some women feel angry and irritated and do not understand why, others may feel overly anxious about their baby, tearful, alone, guilty, unable to cope and unsupported. Each woman’s experience of postnatal depression is different. Cultural background may also affect a woman’s experience of postnatal depression.
You may feel that you are being a bad mother and that somehow you have to cope. Postnatal depression can affect how you feel about, and care for, your baby. Many women do not do not realise that the feelings they are experiencing could be postnatal depression.
Click through to hear one mum’s story and get advice on identifying and managing postnatal distress on the Raising Children In New Zealand website.