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A mum and depression

Perinatal Depression or PND

 

PND is more than feeling down a few days after the birth (many women do). Depression is a serious illness that can debilitate your partner. And if not treated, it can have serious consequences for your baby.

 

PND affects about 1 of every 8 of NZ mums. Which means it's quite common. But with the right support, mums  and babies come out the other side and are fine.

PND symptoms vary from woman to woman. They can be any combination of the following things if they last more than two weeks:

  • Persistent sadness

  • Frequent episodes of crying or weepiness

  • Heavy tiredness (fatigue)

  • Feelings of inadequacy or guilt

  • Being unable to sleep

  • Lost appetite

  • Feeling overwhelmed

  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or remembering things

  • Irritability or mood changes

  • Overly intense worries about the baby

  • Lack of interest in the baby

  • Bizarre thoughts of harming the baby

  • Thoughts of suicide

  • Headaches, chest pains, heart palpitations, numbness and hyperventilation

 

It is normal for your partner to experience some of these from time to time. But if her state of mind persists, then she will need your help.  A health professional would usually as her, these questions in order to determine if she is depressed.

Where to look for help

 

Your partner being  able to talk to someone (talk therapy) regularly about how she is feeling may be enough for her to get onto the road to recovery. Sometimes a doctor will decide to prescribe an anti-depressant to help her recover. Even if she’s taking anti-depressants, she’ll still need your support and reassurance.

  • PADA

  • Your midwife

  • Your Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse

  • Plunketline 0800 933 922

  • Her GP

  • Perinatal Mental Health services at the DHB

  • Private counselling or therapy

  • Free call or Text 1737 anytime

Your partner needs to know you are there for her

 
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It’s incredibly important for her recovery that she knows that you are there for her and that you are able - and can - take care of the baby. You are going to have to step-up and fill the gaps.

She’ll need your support.

  • Let her talk

  • Reassure her

  • Find a health professional she can talk to

  • Reduce the pressure of the baby-care and housework by doing more of these yourself

  • If you can, get someone in who can help

PND affects the baby

 

A baby needs face-to-face interaction, and it needs this often. Being looked at, talked to and played with is what stimulates an infant’s brain. These activities throw out synapses that connect up the brain’s neurons. Click to our page on the developing brain. A depressed mother will find it difficult, if not impossible, to give her baby all the attention and eye contact that a baby needs.

 

The mum’s depression can also interfere with the baby’s attachment to her. If no one steps in to fill the gap that is left by her depression, this will affect the baby’s development and have a long-lasting impact on the child's emotional and intellectual development.

To compensate, the father (or someone) will need to be there much of the time to take more of the moment to moment nurturing role with the baby.

Her PND is tough on her partner

You may feel resentful at being expected to do so much more housework while your partner is depressed and appears to be doing bugger-all. You are going to feel very stretched. Feeling annoyed is understandable. But this isn’t her fault, it's an illness. And it’s not just your partner but your baby who is at risk.

 

A dad needs to take care of himself, too. Cutting down on your commitments outside the home can help. It’s important not to lose contact with your whanau. Neither of you should get isolated from the people you need.

If your partner is depressed and you're finding it hard, find someone to talk. Most of the services listed above are there for you, too. If your partner is depressed, get support for yourself, as well!

Depression in dads

 
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If you think you are depressed:

  • Don't ignore your feelings and just soldier on

  • Talking about it is better than holding it in – find a friend or whanau member who will listen

  • Don’t let yourself get isolated

  • Get help:

    • See your doctor

    • Talk to your Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse

    • Ring or text NEED TO TALK on 1737

 

You're likely to recover more quickly from depression if you acknowledge the problem and find help. The sooner you begin to deal with it, the quicker and easier it is to get out from under it.

 

What doesn’t cure depression:

  • Alcohol or other drugs

  • Burying yourself in work

  • Withdrawing – from your partner or friends

 

The Well Child Tamariki Ora nurse or your GP may not ask you how you are coping. They are likely to be focused is on the baby and mum and may never ask you how you are. But you can still tell them and talk to them about what’s going on for you.

 

Remember, your mental health isn’t just about you – it’s important to your baby and to your partner.

Former-All Black John Kirwan’s campaign to combat depression, depression.org.nz, is good. You may find it useful to have a look.

Men get post-natal depression, too. Depression rates in the general population is about 2-3%, but for new dads it’s about twice that. If his partner has PND, the dad is at greater risk of becoming depressed himself.

For dads, the symptom may look a little different than for women:

  • Feeling very low

  • Not enjoying anything

  • Poor concentration

  • Poor appetite

  • Worrying at night and not sleeping

  • The future may look bleak and feel like things are never going to get better

  • increased drinking or other drug taking

 

It’s not surprising some new dads get depression. Having a baby is a huge change and challenge. It can be tough if the pregnancy wasn’t planned or if you didn’t feel prepared to be a dad just yet. It carries new responsibilities and can be exhausting both physically and emotionally. And it can be difficult to balance the demands of work and a job, and fatherhood. Some men feel pressured to earn more if their partner isn’t in paid work.

If you’re wondering if you are depressed, here is a link to an on-line test that will help you know.