7 simple steps for resolving post natal depression
Post natal depression has sadly hit the headlines again.
Aimmie-Marie Hargreaves, 22, was found hanged in May, just 5 months after giving birth to her second child. Described as an 'amazing mother', the day she died she had been to the park with her partner, Imran, and their children. Imran told the inquest that after visiting the park he left his partner with the children to see a friend and several hours later found her in an unresponsive state.
Aimie had been prescribed antidepressants and was waiting for a course of CBT. Who knows if, in time, that may have helped? But waiting lists for therapy are long and those teetering on the edge of despair can begin to lose hope that they will ever feel better again. What they need is timely advice, guidance and effective support before things spiral out of control.
Post natal depression often develops slowly, sometimes making it difficult for doctors to diagnose and is sometimes hard for the mother herself to recognise. There are various theories about what causes the problem. Biological, psychological and social factors can all play a role.
The Fusion Therapeutic Coaching approach to post natal depression is that it occurs for the same reason all depression occurs; unmet emotional needs.
So, if you suspect that you may be suffering the effects of depression or PND, begin by checking out which of your needs is not being met by taking a look at the list below. It’s a formula for wellbeing. The more ‘no’s’ you get, the more likely you are to feel either stressed or distressed.
Safety and security
It’s common to lose confidence in your abilities in your new parental role. Emotional distress can lead to a feeling of being unsafe in mind and body. Thoughts and feelings can feel unpredictable and out of control and some mothers have troubling thoughts that their babies may be taken away. But they are wary of opening up to doctors or health visitors as they are frightened of being viewed as an unfit mother.
Depression interrupts the ability to give and receive attention. A severely depressed person becomes ‘selfish’ inasmuch as they are focused on their self and their own problems. This can lead to further feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
Fun, family friends
For a new mother at home with a small baby, it can seem that life is all work and no play or downtime. This contrast is all the more difficult for those mothers who have previously been fully engaged in a work environment which was sociable and intellectually stimulating.
Emotional connection to others
Emotional and social isolation impacts well-being. Being in the home all day with only baby for company can be a source of depression. Depression adds to a feeling of diconnection
Status and feeling valued
We all love a pat on the back for a job well done. But being a good mother or a good home maker is not really valued in our society. People tend to notice when things not being done but often don’t notice all the work needed to keep a home running well.
For this reason, mothers and housewives can feel invisible. The contrast between the work environment and home environment could not be starker.
There is very little room for privacy, or time to relax and unwind with a new baby. Sleep is also interrupted or in short supply which can have a dramatic effect on well being and the ability to cope.
We all love to have a sense of achievement and women who have been high achievers are often perfectionists. But anyone who has had the job of looking after small babies will understand the incompatibility of perfectionism and childcare.
Anything less than perfect may feel unacceptable. But ‘less than perfect’ is the realistic option. Donald Winnicott’s notion of the ‘good-enough’ mother is more healthy and achievable for most.
Autonomy and control fly out of the window where childcare is concerned. It is impossible to totally control babies who can seem unpredictable at best, chaotic at worst
The isolation of being a new mother can have a huge impact on wellbeing. Sadly, an early reaction to depression is the tendency to retreat. Less social support then simply compounds the problem.
7 simple steps to take back control
- Identify what’s not working in your life using the Fusion emotional wellbeing checklist above
- Create a positive action plan. Having identified what’s missing, you may well have more clarity about why you are feeling low.
- Ask for help. Take practical steps to adjust to your new circumstances and seek as much support as you can from friends, family and professionals. Join a mums and tots group. You don’t have to go it alone.
- Do whatever you need to bring a better balance into your life so you have some down time, time for sleep and relaxation or time with friends doing the things you used to do before you had a baby. Many people say they will start doing x or y when they feel better. But it’s actually the doing of x and y that makes you feel better
- Download one of the many free guided meditations and practise parasympathetic breathing to calm anxiety and promote better quality sleep. A relaxed mum often means a relaxed baby.
- Get enough natural daylight to raise your mood by getting outdoors every day for at least twenty minutes. This will also be very good for baby, as full spectrum light helps regulate the body clock and will also help you both sleep better at night
- Finally, cut yourself some slack and let go of the idea that you have to be perfect. Babies also have their own emotional needs. Having a perfect mother is certainly not amongst them.
Now, repeat after me ‘I may not be perfect but I am good enough, just as I am.’
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