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Tackling post-natal depression together

By Lynette Argent

Thursday, July 21, 2011


FamilyMotherhoodPost-natal depression

Women are terrific at sharing their fears, hopes, failures and successes with our girlfriends, sisters and mums.

We pour our hearts out to those we trust, in a way that men can barely fathom. It is a wonderful way to cope with life's inevitable ups and downs.

But one area we still consider off-limits is in the dark world of post-natal depression. It is a huge issue.

Related: Jessica Rowe opens up about post-natal depression

One in seven new mums suffers from the condition — that's between 25,000 and 50,000 women every year.

Why are we so judgemental of mothers, including those we consider close? Does our competitive spirit kick in and we lose our sympathy gene with it?

"Kylie's just not coping, she's so disorganised. She might have been successful working as a real estate agent but you can't control things 24-7 with a new baby. I always knew she'd struggle." Sound familiar?

That's the sort of conversation you might have heard, or even been a participant in, rejoicing in the battles of your long-time friends.

The first few months after a baby is born should be a time of joy, love and nurturing, challenged by the constant fight for sleep.

Imagine having that personal miracle tainted by feeling like a failure as a mother, having a sense of hopelessness about the future, feeling exhausted, empty, sad, tearful, guilty, ashamed or worthless and experiencing anxiety or panic. These are symptoms of post-natal depression.

So much progress has been made in the last decade demystifying most forms of depression and making Australians understand that it is an illness like any other. Post-natal depression seems like the final frontier.

It has taken high-profile Australians such as Jessica Rowe to bravely and very publicly talk about her struggles with the condition to generate a groundswell of community understanding.

Isn't it time we all faced this challenge together? Every one of us almost certainly knows someone who has suffered the post-baby blues, whether it was officially diagnosed and disclosed to family and friends or not. How did you help?

New mothers need all our support to ease the burden on households, particularly in the first few months when parents are under maximum stress.

Some of the causes of postnatal depression include having an unsettled baby and having unrealistic expectations about motherhood.

These causes include:

· Mothers not bonding with their babies straight away

· A belief that mothers are meant to know instinctively what to do

· A belief that motherhood is supposed to be a time of joy

· Moving house

· Stopping or re-starting work

· Sleep deprivation

· A lack of practical, financial and/or emotional support.

Sometimes the reality of motherhood doesn't match the 'warm and fuzzy' images we imagine.

Scientific studies show that major depression in women generally peaks during childbearing years, with between 40 and 70 percent of cases beginning in the first three months after a baby's birth.

I know women who have had successful careers, navigating the boardroom world with aplomb, sophistication and elegance. But the moment a baby arrived, their ability to cope nosedived.

So the next time you hear about a friend or family member with post-natal depression, stop, think, and be that rock-solid friend when it's needed most.v


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