Perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA) – or what is often referred to as post natal depression (PND) – can sneak up, disguised amongst the other challenges and emotions of pregnancy and motherhood, wrapped in the cloak of a mother struggling to do her best and slowly wearing her down.
Perinatal depression and anxiety doesn’t discriminate and it comes in many guises. It comes in to a world where many women don’t have a support network, where poor mental health still carries a stigma and is widely misunderstood and where the mental health care system is fragmented and confusing even for those working within it.
So, although there is a lot of talk and studies about PNDA, the fact is that the majority of women suffering go undiagnosed and therefore untreated. And that’s not good for them, their relationships and their family.
What does PNDA feel like?
For each woman it feels different and there is no right or wrong about how to feel. Women describe a huge range of symptoms such as tearfulness, anxiety , insomnia or excessive sleepiness, intrusive thoughts, poor ‘bonding’ and/or negative thoughts about the baby and self-doubt. Other symptoms can be irrationality, , mood changes, lack of enjoyment, fatigue, feeling overwhelmed, hopeless and out of control. Small tasks can feel insurmountable and it can feel as if you are in a dark tunnel or being pressed down. It can have started while you were pregnant.
You can read more about PNDA symptoms here.
It’s OK to suffer from PNDA.
It’s OK for your PNDA to look different than someone else’s.
It’s OK for you not to feel ‘depressed’ but to still feel a whole raft of other things.
It’s OK to ask for help and it’s OK to keep asking for help until you get it.
It’s OK to fill in a screening tool such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale and not score ‘highly’ enough and then keep asking for help or a second opinion.
It’s OK because it’s not your fault. Just like it’s not your fault you have irritable bowel, alopecia, thyroidism or you have one leg longer than the other. It’s just the way it is. And if it’s OK to seek help and make changes for those other health challenges then it’s OK to seek help for all the ways you are feeling and the things you are struggling with.
What to do
If you are not sure if you need help, consider that the very fact you are wondering if you need to reach out about how you are feeling probably means you should. There is no reason you shouldn’t and you certainly deserve to enjoy life more than you currently are. You will still be able to breastfeed on medication; you will still be able to get health insurance.
To get started you could ask yourself, “Who do I trust to talk to about this?” There are many people who can help you get started on your journey – midwife, Plunket Nurse or Well Child Provider, GP, Minister/Priest or Pastor, Friend, trusted colleague, partner, parent, sibling or other relative, practice nurse, a psychologist or therapist, a PND support network, or a support organisation as listed below.
- Depression helpline – 0800 111 757 or text 4202
- Healthline – 0800 611 116
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or text 4357
- Suicide Prevention Helpline – 0508 828 865
If you believe either you, your baby, or someone you know, is in immediate danger, please call emergency services immediately on 111. It’s OK to ask for help.
Starting your journey
For most women their GP or midwife is the place that treatment for PNDA begins. Commonly this will take the form of medication and/or counselling. You could also discuss what other supports are available to you in the community – www.mentalhealth.org.nz has a comprehensive list of places you might like to contact.
Have you had PNDA or do you think you have it? What’s it like for you? Join the discussion in the comments below.
This article was written for Kidspot, the premier parenting resouce in New Zealand. This article contains general information only and is not intended to replace advice from a qualified health professional. If you have questions or concerns about your health contact your doctor. Always see your doctor or other qualified health professional before starting or changing any treatment.
Read more on Kidspot: