Kim Barlow-Miles Counselling

Understanding Postnatal Depression

This week, I contributed to a discussion on BBC Radio Nottingham, with Frances Finn, about Postnatal Depression which affects approximately 14% of new mothers, usually about 4-6 weeks after childbirth.

Of course this means that 86% of new mothers will not experience this difficulty. And it is important to emphasise that there is now lots of help and support available if you or someone you know goes through this.

Anyone can develop Postnatal Depression - even the new mother in the spotlight, the Duchess of Cambridge! However, it seems that some factors make it a little more possible, eg a previous history of depression or other mental health diagnosis, eg Bi-Polar Disorder. Also, in my experience, with recent clients, a particularly traumatic birth, eg one in which the mother or child was in a life-threatening situation, may be a factor. It seems possible that a lack of support/isolation may also be relevant issues, which contribute to the new mother feeling overwhelmed with a sense of responsibility and personal inadequacy, which are features of Postnatal Depression. A baby who does not sleep well, particularly if the mother is the sole carer, can lead to her feeling sleep-deprived, which is another potential contributor to this sort of depression. There may be pressure (self-or-other imposed) to breast-feed, which a new mother may find painful or difficult and then feel ‘bad’ if she bottle-feeds. And of course, there are hormonal factors; it seems that sometimes, natural post-birth beneficial hormonal changes simply do not occur, thus making the new mother psychologically vulnerable.

Signs of Postnatal Depression include:

  • low mood and irritaability
  • exhaustion/lethargy
  • sense of panic/urge to escape from baby
  • low sense of self-worth/self-belief
  • tearfulness
  • feeling overwhelmed, can’t cope
  • hypervigilance (startle response), difficulty getting to sleep

Help can be provided through midwife/health visitor/mental health nurses and support staff, and of course, through GP. Treatment may include anti-depressants (SSRIs), and talking therapy, usually Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy. In this we collaboratively target the negative automatic thoughts about self, eg inadequacy, worthlessness, failing, and together we challenge the evidence which seems to tell us they are true, proving beyond doubt that they are NOT. We also identify the roots of the panic, and find ways to soothe this, such as breathing regulation, mindfulness ‘meditation’, and developing a more helpful, encouraging internal dialogue. Joining a group of new mothers for mutual support, combatting the isolation - perhaps ‘chosen’ by oneself - also has a therapeutic benefit.

The most important point is that YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS and any perceived flawed relationship with your baby CAN RECOVER.

Questions? Referrals? Contact me today »