Postnatal Depression (PND) affects a huge amount of women but remains relatively hush hush. The mamas who suffer it are often in denial or just don’t know who to turn to – and with many of us living as expats, away from family and friends, the feelings of loneliness can be hugely amplified. We speak to Andrea, founder of wonderful support group Out Of The Blues about PND, how to recognise it and how to take steps to seek help and support.
Can you tell us a little more about Out Of The Blues – How did it start, what services do you offer and can anybody join?
Out of the Blues was founded in January 2013. It’s a non-profit support network run by mums for mums suffering from the baby blues, Antenatal Depression, PND (Postnatal Depression), Postpartum Psychosis and other forms of depressive illness throughout the UAE. The group was founded by expat mums who have experienced PND and found that there was no support available within the community. In some cases, the medical profession was lacking up-to-date information to support us.
Together we are determined to help the other mums and their families in their “hour of need”. No one needs to suffer alone. We are here to offer non-judgmental support and information. All forms of depression are recognised as a treatable condition. Depression can affect anyone, regardless of nationality, wealth and overall wellbeing.
As a peer support group we offer weekly coffee mornings in Dubai and monthly coffee mornings in Abu Dhabi, Muscat & Qatar as well as email support, phone support and Facebook pages for both men and women. These groups are open to anyone suffering from or affected by AND, PND or PPP.
What is PND?
Postnatal Depression is a depressive disorder which affects women and some men after the birth of their baby. According to recent estimates, PND occurs in 1 in 5 women while 1 in 20 men will have a depressive episode in the first year of their child’s life. PND can begin as soon as your baby is born, though it’s not often diagnosed until later on. The symptoms of PND are very similar to the symptoms one may experience in depression and include low mood, a sense of worthlessness, exhaustion and a feeling of being unable to cope.
Often mothers experiencing PND will feel guilty about the way they feel, which may affect their ability to bond with the child and lead to attachment problems. With this guilt, a sense of self-loathing and the belief that their child/family would be better off without them can occur. Depending on how bad the PND is some mothers experience significant difficulty caring for their newborn child and any other children. Individuals with PND can experience overwhelming difficulty with simple household chores and feel unable to cope and inadequate as a mother.
How can someone recognise if they have more than just the ‘baby blues’?
Baby blues is very common, so much so it is considered normal, it impacts about 85% of women after the birth of their baby/babies, somewhere between the 3rd to 10th day and only lasts for a few days. On the other hand, PND doesn’t just pass after a couple of days or a good night’s sleep.
Here are some of the symptoms you might want to look out for. It is highly unlikely you will have all of these symptoms however, if you have more than one or two go and speak to your doctor, give us a call, ask for some more information and support and do it as soon as you can.
How you may feel
- sad and low
- tearful for no apparent reason
- hopeless about the future
- unable to cope
- irritable and angry
- hostile or indifferent to your partner or baby
- anxious and fearful
You may find that you
- lose concentration
- have little to no libido
- find it hard to sleep – even when you have the opportunity
- suffer from insomnia, can’t sleep even when you have the opportunity
- have a lack of appetite
- have thoughts about death or that your family would be better off without you.
When does PND usually set in?
PND can set in immediately after birth although in most cases PND occurs one to two months after birth. However, it can happen several months later, for some women the symptoms can go unnoticed and women just feel that something just isn’t right. Also some women develop depression during pregnancy known as Antenatal Depression and the symptoms become more intense and overwhelming following birth.
Are anti-depressants necessary to help mamas with PND?
Treatment for PND varies from case to case although medication isn’t the only treatment available it is always advisable to discuss your treatment plan with a medical professional.
Possible treatment options could include vitamin supplements, exercise, and hypnosis, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Mindfulness, Talking Therapy and Medication. No matter which of these options you wish to try studies prove that Talking Therapy is key to a successful recovery so please ensure that you do talk to someone. In addition to these, peer support has also been proven to aid successful recoveries so please do get in touch with Out of the Blues for support.
Are there any steps mamas-to-be or new mamas can take to avoid getting PND?
Eat well, rest when you can, ask for help if you need it. If you have a family history of depression, anxiety or PND, you are more likely to experience depression yourself so watch out for the signs. Tell your partner what to look for, listen to your body and mind and be kind to yourself. You may also wish to consider placenta encapsulation, which studies prove have aided the reduction of PND.
Why do you think more expat mamas seem to suffer from PND?
A lack of familial support is a huge contributory factor to one’s overall wellbeing, having a new baby is a life changing experience like no other and without support and guidance can be terrifying. There is very little in the way of home support here or guidance on how to care for your baby unless you are able to pay for it. Add to that the huge amount of peer pressure here to keep up with the Jones’ and it can all simply become too much.
Sadly there are a lot of births here where women have felt disempowered and not listened to or supported. Also the lack of breastfeeding support and education is a big problem, as is the amount of perceived pressure and judgment when women choose to not breastfeed.
If you have PND with one child are you likely to have it with the next?
You are at a higher risk of your PND recurring, however it’s not guaranteed that because you have had it before you will definitely have it again. In addition, you could have six children and only experience PND with the last one. There is no hard and fast rule I’m afraid.