Let’s get real, this motherhood gig is not an easy one. And to make things harder, sadly in our society, pregnancy and motherhood are often represented in idealised ways. From glorious pregnancy photoshoots to Insta-ready newborns, the reality of being a new mum can be far removed from that initially imagined.
If a woman or her partner’s expectations are very different from reality, it can result in adjustment difficulties, and this can lead to depression and anxiety – both pre- and post-natal.
Postnatal depression can affect 1 in 10 women whilst they are pregnant, and 1 in 7 women during the first year after birth (beyondblue.org.au).
Postnatal depression is not your fault. You’re not a bad person, you’re not a bad mother and you are not alone. Sleep deprivation alone can cause significant impacts on your general mood. Couple that with the trauma of birth, social isolation and an adjustment to motherhood, and these can all cause difficulties in coping with your new role as a mum.
Postnatal depression is not your fault. You’re not a bad person, you’re not a bad mother and you are not alone.
Strategies you can put in place during pregnancy and the postnatal period to reduce your risks of postnatal depression:
- Establish realistic ideas of pregnancy and life as a new mum. Re-evaluate what can really be achieved with a new baby in the house.
- Establish a relationship with a health professional. Talk to your GP, initiate a referral to see a social worker or psychologist to engage in talk therapy.
- Avoid major upheavals. If possible, avoid changing jobs, moving house, renovations. This can be a source of stress.
- Discuss expectations of pregnancy and parenthood. Many factors can influence a person’s ideas about parenthood. Discussing these expectations and coming to a shared understanding can reduce the chance of any disappointments.
- Get finances in order. Losing an income for a period of time and the extra costs of a new baby can result in added stress. Know the position thefinances are in beforehand.
- Gift substitute. Suggest to friends or family a service instream of a gift such as a cleaner, or pre-made meals.
- Division of tasks. Work out who is doing what in your household. Looking after a baby and carrying the mental load for the family can cause significant overwhelm.
Signs to watch out for are:
- Sleep disturbances (trouble sleeping even when the baby sleeps), including insomnia, early morning waking, excessive sleep.
- Changes in appetite (not eating or overeating).
- Persistent and generalised worry.
- Feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, emptiness or failure as a mother.
- Feelings of anger, guilt, resentment, shame and irritability.
- Thoughts of suicide.
By Eliza Pike – Blackbird Counselling
Eliza Pike is a Clinical Social Worker and the Founder of Blackbird Counselling. She specialises in pregnancy and postnatal counselling, including fertility counselling, grief and loss, adjustment to motherhood and maternal mental health.