Mood changes

Becoming parents

The transition to becoming new parents is one of the most significant changes in life, and most couples find it challenging.  Many adjustments have to be made to successfully navigate this transition to becoming parents.

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Antenatal Anxiety and Depression

Prevalence of Antenatal Anxiety and Depression

These fears are not unusual and all pregnant women should expect some mood variation in pregnancy.  But for about 10% of pregnant women depression can become a significant problem with Antenatal Depression. Anxiety is believed to be just, if not more, common. 

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Postpartum Psychosis

The term psychosis is the name for a group of mental illnesses where there is a loss of contact with reality.  With time and careful management, most people do recover fully from these episodes – many never having another episode again.

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Postnatal Anxiety and Depression

Prevalence of Postnatal Anxiety and Depression

Postnatal depression and anxiety (PNDA) can be devastating and debilitating illnesses that can persist and affect not just a new mother but everyone around her. It is not a modern condition. Each generation calls it something different. What we call PNDA today may have been called a 'nervous breakdown' fifty years ago.

PNDA can be mild, moderate or severe and symptoms can begin suddenly after birth or appear gradually in the weeks or months during the first year after birth.

PNDA occurs in all cultures and can happen to child bearing women of all ages. Pregnancy is the common factor. It can happen after miscarriage or stillbirth, normal or traumatic delivery, or caesarean delivery. PNDA happens not only after a first baby. It can occur after a third or fifth baby. Sometimes it happens after a first baby only. Sometimes it happens with a third baby, but not with the first two. Sometimes it happens after each pregnancy.

Read More Prevalence of Postnatal Anxiety and Depression

Men and Postnatal Anxiety and Depression

The prevalence of PNDA is up to 1 in 10. Many of the experiences of becoming a parent also present challenges for men and PNDA is a reality for some. Often partners are suffering in silence, perhaps with even less strategies or supports for dealing with how they feel. It is important that they receive the same assessment and treatment as recommended for women.

If the partner is the main carer of the new mother with PNDA he will be dealing with added pressures and concerns. Juggling work and family demands while dealing with his own transition to fatherhood are made more complex by living with a depressed person and not knowing how and when to help. Fathers need to protect themselves because they too are then at increased risk of developing depression. There are many things that a father can do to look after himself and to ensure that his needs are not neglected:

Look after his own health needs.

  • Don't be afraid or embarrassed to share the problem with family and friends.
  • Talk to a professional if things are getting on top of him.
  • Accept help from everyone to support him getting through the challenging time.
  • Stay active by keeping up sports and hobbies that will relieve tension and keep him healthy. Avoid time consuming activities as these may add stress to an already stressful situation.
  • Try to find time to go out together on a regular basis.
  • Make time for himself to keep up with his friends and have time away from family.
  • Accept that there will be some people who do not understand the situation.
  • Be prepared to accept the anger and frustration of his partner without taking it personally.
  • Try not to confuse his need for closeness and intimacy with his desire for sex.

Read More: PANDA's FACTSHEET Men and perinatal anxiety and depression 

Read More: PANDA's Information for Men page


Identifying Postnatal Depression

Why is PND hidden?

The early signs of PND are recognizable and help and interventions are available. But it can be very difficult to identify and diagnose PND in the early stages of its development for some of the following reasons:

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Impact of Postnatal Depression

Women who experience depression after having a child are known to experience higher levels of distress in terms of symptoms and relationship difficulties (particularly marital) than non-childbearing women with depression. PND can have long term effects on the mother, her infant and children and on the couple and family relationships.

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Risks of Postnatal Depression

If PND remains unidentified, untreated or is moderately severe the woman may be experiencing some thoughts and behaviour that present a risk to her or her baby. For most women their thoughts of harm or suicide are fleeting and represent a desire for their pain and distress to go away, for example a desire to go away and not come back.

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Prevention of Postnatal Depression

Antenatal Education

Education during pregnancy, the antenatal period, provides a valuable opportunity to raise expectant couples' awareness of mood changes related to childbirth.

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Postnatal Depression and Childbirth Trauma

The expectations of a mother-to-be of a calm, natural and fulfilling labour and childbirth, surrounded by supportive people with a sense of control and being heard can be central to her emerging sense of herself as a good mother. Should this type of labour or postnatal period not eventuate the new mother can feel less than a good mother, combined with the emotional and physical scars that remain.

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Postnatal Depression and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the method of choice for feeding infants and the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.

However, the relationship between breastfeeding and PND is as complex as breastfeeding and PND are in their own rights. There is no clear relationship between the two as it depends on the interaction between the individual mother and her experience of breastfeeding.

Read more: Postnatal Depression and Breastfeeding
While PANDA has exercised due care in ensuring the accuracy of the material contained on this website, the information is made available on the basis that PANDA is not providing professional advice on a particular matter. This website is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice, nor should it be used as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.