From the moment we decide to have a child the entire map of our lives changes. Research shows that despite any information or preparation that we receive antenatally the reality of parenthood is markedly different to our expectations.
Having a newborn baby (whether biologically or through adoption) is one of the biggest of life-changing events. On a physiological level it impacts on our hormones and biochemistry. Add to this having to care for a baby as well as the usual responsibilities of looking after older children, paying attention to your partner, doing most of the domestic chores while still recovering from the physically and emotionally draining experience of bringing a child into your life, feeding your child and sleepless nights – it is no wonder that you may at times feel overwhelmed and vulnerable.
Every parent (mothers, fathers, adoptive parents) will experience Postnatal Distress (PND) at some stage or another. However, for 4 out of 10 parents, the experience may be more significant and manifest in depression, but most commonly anxiety.
Symptoms of PND
I can’t list all the symptoms because of space restrictions in this article but some of the most significant ones are,
- concentration difficulties
- change in appetite
If any of these symptoms persist for longer than two weeks then I strongly suggest that you get an assessment from a professional who is familiar with PND, because the longer you leave it the worse it may get.
In my opinion the most important question to ask yourself is: Do I feel like the person I know myself to be and that others know me to be?
Other vital questions that indicate the possibility of PND are: To what extent do I identify with the following statements,
- I don’t feel like I’m the parent I wish to be
- I have trouble sleeping even when my baby is sleeping
- I feel I’ve made a mistake by having a child
- I feel anxious even over the smallest things
- I feel like my emotions are on a roller coaster
If you have an inkling that you may have PND then:
- Let in as much support as possible
- Consult a therapist who works in the field of PND
- Join a support group
- Sometimes medication is indicated in which case consult with a psychiatrist
Having suffered severely from postnatal anxiety with both of my children, I am all too familiar with the feelings of being misunderstood, ashamed, alone, self-doubting
and so different to other parents who all looked fabulous. If you are having a similar experience you need to know two important things. Firstly, that you are not alone and secondly, that if you get the right help you will absolutely feel like the YOU you know yourself to be again.
Written by Linda Lewis,
Linda, is a Psychologist who specializes in the area of Postnatal Distress. She has a private practice where she sees individual clients and she facilitates psychotherapy support groups. She is the author of a book titled “When Your Blessings Don’t Count : A Guide to Recognising and Overcoming Postnatal Distress”