Post-natal depression is a devastating condition, even more so than many conditions, because it coincides with the happiness of bringing a new life into the world. A recent study has demonstrated that symptoms of post-natal depression are still widespread due to, as an expert indicates, the pervasive silence and taboo of opening up about depression when you have taken on the role and responsibility of a parent and guardian.
Content warning: This article mentions self-harm. For help and information have a look at this page.
Young mothers are the least likely age group to ask for support despite over a quarter considering self-harm soon after giving birth, finds a study conducted by Livi. The digital healthcare platform surveyed 1,000 UK mothers and found that symptoms of post-natal depression are widespread.
The main signs of post-natal depression include persistent depression or low mood, lack of energy, and lack of interest in the wider world. While less common symptoms can include insomnia, difficulty bonding with your baby, and disturbing thoughts.
Results from the survey found that, on average, nearly one in eight (12%) of new mothers considered self-harm, rising to over a quarter for mother aged 18-24 (29%) and 25-34 (26%).
Speaking about negative feelings is the best way to address the symptoms and causes of depression, while silence is known to stagnate and possibly reinforce them. That is why the finding that one in seven mothers find it difficult to talk about their experiences of post-natal depression and that one in ten described it as a taboo subject was particularly concerning.
Dr Elisabeth Rosen, a doctor, specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology at Livi, responded to the survey: "In fact, it's common for new parents to feel depressed, confused, frustrated, tired and disillusioned - that's nothing to feel ashamed of. Support and treatments are available, so speak to a doctor who can help you to work out what the best options are for you. Whatever you do, don't suffer in silence."
- See also: 'MUTU System: changing perceptions about pelvic health and postpartum mental health'
- See also: 'Black and Asian mothers require tailored postpartum psychosis support, says charity'
One in ten men will suffer from some form of post-natal depression
An often-overlooked aspect of post-natal depression is that it is not experienced exclusively by mothers. It is estimated by the online parenting resource BabyCentre, that one in ten dads has post-natal depression: commonly experienced in the first year of their child’s life.
The Livi study also revealed that over a quarter (27%) of fathers experience depression after their baby is born, and a third (33%) had considered self-harm.
Similarly, another recent survey, conducted by Snüz and Dadsnet, found that 65% of dads admit that having children negatively affected their mental health due to lack of time, change in relationship dynamic, additional responsibilities, financial issues, and lack of sleep.
The same survey also found that 67% of dads felt they had insufficient resources tailored to them, and over half felt apprehensive about discussing mental health issues with their partner if it relates to their child.
Al, Founder of Dadsnet, said: “When men become dads, the danger is that their own health can naturally slip away from them in the place of keeping their children as healthy as possible. Here at Dadsnet, we're keen to support dads in finding ways of keeping both our children and ourselves as healthy as possible."
- See also: 'Talking about men’s mental health and suicide'
- See also: 'Male mental health undermined by friends' 'desire to advise''
Expert advice on what to do if you or your partner are experiencing symptoms of post-natal depression
Dr Elizabeth Rosen gave her expert advice and suggested that if you are concerned about yourself or a loved one's mental health post-birth, you should:
- Break the silence and stigma attached to post-natal depression and talk to family and friends: “Tell them how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to ask for help with things like looking after the baby, so you can catch up on sleep or socialising.”
- Find local support: “If you don’t have anyone to turn to - for example, if you’re a single mother with no friends or family close by - look for local support groups. A doctor should be able to help you find one in your area.”
- Rest: “Try not to be a perfectionist. It doesn’t matter if your house doesn't look immaculate or all of the chores aren't done. It's more important that you catch up on sleep and rest when you can.”
- Eat healthily: “Having a baby makes demands on the body, so eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is crucial.”
- Seek expert help: “Your doctor can refer you for a course of therapy with a psychologist. Cognitive behavioural therapy is shown to be effective in treating post-natal depression. Antidepressants may also be recommended in certain cases where depression is severe, and other treatments haven't helped.”
For more information and advice about post-natal depression, visit Livi’s resource page.
Mind’s Infoline can provide information and support regarding getting support for anxiety, self-harm, and depression. Call 0300 123 3393, or email email@example.com for information and signposting services. They are open 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).