THE DARK BLUE DAYS

Baby blues af­fect most moth­ers and pass quickly, but post­na­tal de­pres­sion is more se­ri­ous and re­quires in­ter­ven­tion. Here’s how to dis­tin­guish be­tween the two

Your Baby & Toddler - - The Dossier -

EV­ERY AD­VERT of a new mom and her baby paints a rosy pic­ture of love and con­tent­ment. But what hap­pens when moth­er­hood doesn’t feel mirac­u­lous – when you can’t see the rosy pic­ture and when you feel so anx­ious about this new life you can hardly en­joy the sim­ple mo­ments of car­ing for your baby?

If this sounds fa­mil­iar, you may well be suf­fer­ing from baby blues or post­na­tal de­pres­sion, oth­er­wise known as post­na­tal dis­tress. The word dis­tress is a bet­ter de­scrip­tor for PND than de­pres­sion be­cause not ev­ery­one who has PND ex­pe­ri­ences de­pres­sion. Many moms find the over­whelm­ing symp­toms are anx­i­ety and fear, rather than sad­ness and de­spair. THE SCALE OF PND As many as 30 per­cent of moms ex­pe­ri­ence some form of post­na­tal dis­tress, which en­com­passes a wide range of con­di­tions, from baby blues to post­na­tal psy­chosis.

The post­na­tal dis­tress we re­fer to as the baby blues are very mild and short lived. They are usu­ally lim­ited to the first few days af­ter de­liv­ery and are strongly in­flu­enced by hor­monal shifts. You may feel over­whelmed, sad, de­pen­dent and vul­ner­a­ble. You may have dif­fi­culty sleep­ing and ex­pe­ri­ence high lev­els of anx­i­ety. How­ever, these feel­ings do not linger and within a week or two you love be­ing a mom and look back on the feel­ings as op­posed to hav­ing them linger.

On the op­po­site end of the con­tin­uum is post­na­tal psy­chosis. This is the most se­vere form of post­na­tal dis­tress. It is rare but ex­cep­tion­ally dan­ger­ous as the mom poses a risk to her­self and/or her baby. Of­ten the mom is out of touch with the sever­ity of her symp­toms. She may hal­lu­ci­nate or have episodes of ma­nia. Post­na­tal psy­chosis is a rea­son for ad­mis­sion to hos­pi­tal.

Post­na­tal de­pres­sion falls some­where in the mid­dle of the range. Some moms feel very sad and have no en­ergy or will strug­gle to en­gage with their ba­bies, while oth­ers are so anx­ious that they don’t in­ter­act with their lit­tle ones out of fear of harm­ing the baby. Many moms feel an­gry, par­tic­u­larly to­wards their part­ners and may re­sent the world for go­ing on while they are trapped in a tun­nel with no light at the end of it.

No mat­ter what your ex­pe­ri­ence of post­na­tal dis­tress is, you should chat it through with some­one – be it your part­ner, a friend, your doc­tor or clinic nurse. WHAT PND DOES PND af­fects not only your abil­ity to carry out daily tasks such as plan­ning meals, get­ting your­self dressed and car­ing for your baby, but it also af­fects the way you in­ter­act with your part­ner and en­gage with your baby. Many women feel brit­tle and an­gry to­wards their part­ners – it feels un­fair that he can es­cape the re­spon­si­bil­ity of this new life. Of course this is not a log­i­cal feel­ing or thought, but then not much is log­i­cal when you feel this dis­tressed. In ad­di­tion, PND can im­pact on your in­ter­ac­tion with your baby. It may pre­vent you from spon­ta­neously en­gag­ing, mak­ing eye con­tact and re­spond­ing to your baby’s lit­tle coos. On an emo­tional level this has nega­tive ef­fects on your baby.

It is these two ef­fects of PND that pose a great risk for your fu­ture. Risk­ing your re­la­tion­ship with your part­ner and not con­nect­ing with your new baby can have dev­as­tat­ing long-term con­se­quences. It is for this rea­son that you should seek help as soon as pos­si­ble.

WHAT TO DO If you think you may have PND the first step is to find out if you do. PNDSA (Post Natal De­pres­sion Sup­port As­so­ci­a­tion) has an amaz­ing web­site – pndsa.org.za. Here you can take an on­line test to see if you have PND. This would be the first step in the right di­rec­tion. From there you can find the right in­ter­ven­tion to help you man­age your PND. YB

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