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Seek Help For Post-Natal Depression

14 February 2002

At least 5,500 women suffer from post-natal depression each year with many

not knowing they have the condition, according to the Royal New Zealand Plunket Society.

Anne Lensen, a Clinical Advisor with Plunket’s, says that coping with a young baby can be a challenging experience that many new mothers are not prepared for, and can be a factor in post-natal depression.

“The changes that motherhood brings about are under-estimated by a large percentage of the population and we still don’t know why some women experience post-natal depression and other don’t, said Anne Lensen.

A woman’s self-confidence can diminish, social life will often change and she may feel lonely or isolated. Broken sleep patterns add to tiredness. These factors and physical changes during pregnancy and childbirth may contribute to post-natal depression.

“It is important that women recognise when they have symptoms of post-natal depression and ask for help.

“Post-natal depression is an illness, experienced by at least one in ten women, and it can occur with one pregnancy and not another, and not necessarily just with the first birth. It can start any time up to a year after the birth of a baby”.

Unfortunately many women who have symptoms of post-natal depression blame themselves, feel a failure and don’t like to ask for help.

“Mothers who experience post-natal depression are not “bad mothers’ and they are not inadequate although this is sometimes how they will feel. Nor do women “imagine’ the unpleasant physical and emotional feelings that go with depression and they can’t tell their feelings to go away either,” said Anne Lensen.

Women don’t always know that it is depression that they are experiencing although they will know they don’t feel their usual selves.

“If some of the following symptoms are present for more than a few days a woman should seek help,” said Anne Lensen.

- feeling worthless and unable to manage normal tasks

- tearfulness for no apparent reason

- “bad’ or “sad’ mood

- poor appetite

- sleeping poorly

- irritability

- lack of interest in anything

- constant worrying about baby or self

- fear of going out

- fear of being alone

- feeling frightened for no good reason

Always seek help immediately if you have thoughts about harming your self or your baby.

While there are some things a mother can do to help herself feel better, it is always important to get professional help. A Plunket nurse or GP can advise about where to go for help. Support groups exist in some places.

Partners, families and friends are very important in helping a woman through post-natal depression. They need to avoid criticism and blame and support the woman with the following:

- getting adequate rest

- getting some breaks from the baby

- having some fun and relaxation and having things to look forward to

- exercising

- not expecting too much of herself

It is very important that family, friends and professional people who come in contact with a depressed mother take her seriously and not just hope the depression will go away, according to Anne Lensen.

“Its easy to feel hopeless and things will never get better but post-natal depression is a condition that responds to the right help and the sooner help is obtained, the better”.


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