In 2010 I was diagnosed with postnatal depression after the birth of my second child. My first pregnancy had been reliably easy, with help at hand with my mother a short distance away. At the same time, my first-born was a gem – no sleepless nights, no breastfeeding woes – a happy, contented child. So when my Elizabeth came, it was catastrophic – and now my mum was hundreds of miles away.
Naturally worrying about the progress of any pregnancy is inevitable with most mothers, no matter how many children they have had. My first pregnancy went along without any real problems. However, after the second pregnancy, and with a more difficult child, my anxiety got to the point of excessive worrying, and an inability to relax.
Even after 3 weeks my daughter would not settle into any routine for her feeding and sleeping. She slept most of the day and killed most of the night. I could not control her screaming even though my doctor and maternal child health nurse found no health problems. Everything became an effort. I just could not accept. I was sleep-deprived, appetite-disturbed and exhausted. I felt I was the worst mother in the world.
The decisive and well balanced person of the past had disappeared and in her place was a teary, panicky woman who was a shadow of her former self. In other words, there was something majorly very wrong. Even today I still can not believe that my darling husband persevered with me.
Society makes it difficult for most women to acknowledge that there is something wrong. Is not childbirth the time when most women feel joy and bliss? Is not post natal depression portrayed as negative? Look at how well all the celebrities manage with all their children? And look at me, I felt alone and unable to cope, life was not perfect.
When help finally came, my life changed and my feelings and responses towards my daughter changed. My doctor finally admitted me to hospital where diagnosis of postnatal depression was made and medication begun. He prescribed an antidepressant which corrected the chemical imbalance in the brain which may have been responsible for my depression.
What Causes Postpartum Depression
While there is no known cause for PPD, it is because that it may be triggered by fluctuating oestrogen and progesterone levels that occurs following childbirth. Abnormalities in the thyroid hormones have also been listed.
My daughter is now a beautiful 5-year old and I love her to bits and enjoy every minute with her. I thank my family for listening and emotionally supporting me. I have learned to trust my parenting skills and I am no longer embarrassed to admit that I have suffered postnatal depression.
Postnatal Depression Signs and Symptoms
In fact over 20% of pregnant women experience some sort of depression. Symptoms can occur anytime during pregnancy, however, studies indicate that it is more common after birth. Studies also show that if the sufferer has depression symptoms prior to pregnancy, the symptoms are often more serious after the pregnancy.
While most mothers experience: mood swings, insomnia, dependency, crying, restlessness, irritability, and feelings of sadness for a week or two after childbirth, if symptoms last longer, then the diagnosis of postnatal depression is made.
Typically, the primary risk factor is having a family history of depression, although life events such as marital problems, child abuse, unemployment, low education or low socioeconomic status play a part.
It is important to know that postnatal depression is not a sign of personal weakness, failure, or 'all in the mind'. I encourage any other mother who may be going through these same feelings to seek professional help as early as possible. It will help you, your child and your family. The good news is that you will recover. Learn to ask for help. It is never too late. And yes, I am a good mum!
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