Sarah put her hands over her ears to try to block out the cries of her five month old daughter, alone in the house she felt overwhelmed by emotion and unable to move. Since Rosie’s birth she had experienced increasing anxiety, felt that she was a useless Mum and had suicidal thoughts. Luckily for both of them a friend who was worried about them unexpectedly called by and eventually persuaded Sarah to get some professional help.Sarah’s story is not uncommon, a recent study in the USA shows that 50 to 80 percent of new Mothers and 30 percent of new Fathers suffer post natal depression (also known as post partum depression).
Symptoms range from lethargy and feeling tearful, to debilitating mood swings and suicidal thoughts that prevent even the strongest of parents from bonding with the new baby, or dealing with the most simple daily tasks.
Although not given its title and recognised by psychologists until around 1968, as far back as Aristotle post natal depression was documented, and midwives have long been aware of the ‘baby blues’.
Hormonal changes associated with pregnancy and birth can make a Mother feel overwhelmed for a few days – the ‘baby blues’, but to understand continued depressive feelings it is necessary to look at the huge sociological change and psychological demands that a new baby requires.
Having a baby is a major transition, and most parents are ill prepared for the effect on life style and relationship.
- Feeling overwhelmed and tearful
- Snappy and irritable
- Not feeling close to the baby
- Great tiredness
- Feeling alone, no one to turn too
Although most commonly attributed to women, recent NHS studies point out the seriousness of men becoming depressed after the birth of a new baby. An NHS trust in the Essex in the UK has set up a trial help line for Fathers who are struggling too. 0845 120 3746 (lines opened March 2005)
- Feeling a huge weight of responsibility
- Inadequacy in a supportive role for their partner
- Anxiety around the birth and worry about their ability to be a good parent
- No feelings for the baby
- Feeling very stressful around the Mother, feeling a loss of closeness with them
The above is not a surprise when you consider that during the first six weeks normal routines of sleep, work and play are abandoned as life revolves around the baby’s needs. There is no time or energy to chat, see friends, sleep may be hard to come by and the idea of being that super mum and wife becomes a forgotten dream.
Tiredness and worry cause us to act emotionally and prevent clear thinking, the head spins with thoughts as our rational brain gets side lined and we react immediately to our thoughts and feelings. It becomes a downward spiral where the joy of a new baby is hard to access, oh then guilt raises its rotten head.