Hi there - this guide is based on my personal experience of post natal depression after my second son - I do not profess to be an expert, and would strongly encourage anyone who feels any depressed to seek professional medical advice from their doctor, health visitor, councellor, midwife etc..
A GUIDE TO POST NATAL DEPRESSION
I believe that PND is a natural side effect of having a baby because depression occurs when the seratonin levels in our brain become depleated... and there is nothing in this whole world like the exhaustion of being a new mum to run your seratonine right down to rock bottom.
PND is most common when you have your second child, if you have twins or multiple births - You find yourself in a guilty spiral of always feeling like you are neglecting one of your children while you tend to the other. You feel torn in half between your children, and at the end of the day you may feel empty there is nothing left of your own identity let alone anything for your partner. People will come and take your beloved older child out to give you time to yourself or with your strange new baby.
PND knows no bounderies, it can effect women of all ages, ethnic, social and economic backgrounds.... You may find yourself shoplifting, cutting or self harming, drinking alcohol, not eating, overeating, exhausted but not being able to sleep, unable to get out of bed, tearful, angry, irrational, unclean, obssessively clean, all of the above or nothing at all ... in short you are ill.
1. Get a natural daylight bulb fitted in the room you spend most time in, beware of flickering flouresant lights and long life energy saving bulbs as these can excaserbate depression.
2. Make lists, your short term memory is shot to pieces and lists are a must to organise yourself. Include basic things like eating, sleeping etc to make sure you don't foret to do them. Cross things off your list when you have done them to show that you are achieving things however small. As my pal said to me recently 'I used to manage 30 people now I can't manage a tiny baby'
3. Don't watch the news, current affairs programmes, crimewatch, jeremy kyle type confrontational talk shows - your emotions are way too fragile to deal with them right now- the horrors of the real world will still be there when you choose to go back to them, and you won't dumb down you just need to focus on you and your family right now.
4. Don't read trashy magazines like Hello or Ok with skinny Posh and Madonna pics - the women are airbrushed cartoon characters - NOT REAL - you can deal with baby fat later, you need to get your head fit first
5. Do have the radio on in the house, a bit of perky music can lift the mood and make you feel less lonely indoors
6. Get yourself out of the house at every opportunity - go to a toddler group even if your baby is too small for the play equipment you will find that everyone will coo over your baby and you will soon be sharing birth / stitches / breastfeeding stories.... take a friend if you lack confidence .... Your health visitor can point you in the right direction otherwise most churches have a stay and play or parent and toddler group or check yellow pages for your National Childbirth Trust.
7. When you are at these groups don't be fooled into thinking everyone is doing a much better job of being a mum than you just because they have got a bit of lipstick on. PND can be a badge of shame, of not coping, of not wanting to ask for help... but you must get help.... remember PND effects 1 in 10 mums look around the room statistically you will not be alone
8. Go and find a huge horizon to look at, from on top of a hill, middle of a big field, top of a church tower or looking out to sea if your by the coast ... get some clean air in your lungs and see your problems in perspective to the larger natural world. If you can't get to any of these places close your eyes and visualise your problems shrinking in relation to a bigger picture.
9. Exercise according to your abilities, dance in your kitchen, get out of your car and walk, get a yoga DVD from the library, join an anti-natal pilates or keep fit class. Exercise within your abilities is proven to help alieviate depression.
10. Eat proper sensible food regularly, especially if you're breastfeeding ... ask your well meaning visitors to bring around a plate of pastabake, shephards pie, lasagne, or whatever they're having for tea.
11. Drink lots of pure orange juice it will help you to absorb iron in your diet and give you strength plus vitimin C to stave off illness.
12. Dose up on echinacia and get the flu jab if you can the last thing you need is to be physically ill on top of all of this.
13. Take up a handicraft like patchwork, embroidery, scrap booking or cardmaking ... and exercise your creativity for an hour before bed each night ... gain encouragement from seeing a little progress simple everyday.
14. Keep a diary to see how far you have come, to put things in perspective, and to chart this remarkable mindbending experience. No more than 10 mins per day, this is not to wallow just a place to get stuff out of your head down on paper and then set it aside.
15. If all this is stirring up your own negative childhood experiences now is also a good time to write a letter to yourself as a little girl .. forgive your parents, encourage yourself etc ... the technique is to put it down on paper, and then put it away.
16. Forgive yourself if you are not bonding instantly with your new baby ..... children are very resiliant ... I have one friend who didn't bond with her mum until she was 31 ! ...
17. Try Kangeroo Care, Skin on Skin techniques or Baby Massage to get closer to your baby, your health visitor can advise but basically get you and your baby naked and tummy to tummy lots to improve bonding.
18. Tell your partner that when you have a big rant you don't expect him to solve all your problems you just want him to listen quietly and give you a hug.
19. If you do require medication to help you out of your PND then make a check sheet to ensure that you remember to it. There are a number of old type anti-depressants (eg Sertraline) that are compatible with breastfeeding so don't be fooled into thing that one is mutually exclusive of another. Don't feel guilty or a failure for taking anti-depressants ... no-one would question a diabetics need for insulin ... they are non addictive and often yield results within 2 weeks.
20. No matter how rubbish a mum you feel Your baby will know that you are the best mum for him/her and they wouldn't swop you for the world. Sloppy but absolutely true.