Once the woman's medical aspect of her treatment is monitored and stabilised it is important for her to have some form of counselling or additional support. Talking about her feelings, particularly with other women in support groups or to a professional counsellor can be vital to her recovery.
Some women find psychological treatments helpful especially if they have experienced traumatic events in their childhood or more recently, including a traumatic childbirth experience.
Counselling and support can help the woman to understand what has contributed to her postnatal depression and support her to adapt to her role as a mother, for example, unrealistic expectations of motherhood, rigid and controlling thinking, past history of child abuse or grief and loss.
Having counselling together as a couple can also be important to help improve communication and conflict resolution. With all degrees of postnatal depression, particularly long term, it is important for the woman to investigate all the underlying issues to help prevent depression with any future pregnancies.
Some of these issues may include:
Myths of Motherhood
It is important for all new parents to understand their own definitions of what makes a good mother or father. Experience with their own parents will help define these roles and also what they see in society. Many new parents experience disappointment and frustration when the realities of motherhood and fatherhood don't meet the expectations they had of themselves and their experiences.
Listed below are some common myths of motherhood. There are similar myths about fatherhood.
- Motherhood is a woman's ultimate fulfillment
- A woman instantly feels love for her baby
- A woman will instinctively know how to mother
- A mother can easily interpret her baby's cries
- Motherhood is a time of sublime contentment and joy
- Motherhood is romantic
- A mother is selfish if she expresses her own needs
- If a mother does not bond with her baby straight away, there is something wrong with her and the baby will suffer long term psychological damage
- Mothers must cope with the demands they face and it is not OK to ask for help
- A good mother is full time and totally available to her children
A more realistic set of beliefs might include:
- Motherhood is a difficult but rewarding job that involves long hours with little respite
- A mother may feel love for her baby as soon as it is born, but this 'falling in love' is more likely to occur over time as she gets to know her baby
- Motherhood is not merely instinctive. A woman has to learn to be a mother and this takes time and practice.
- It is OK for a mother to make mistakes
- A mother will learn to interpret most of her baby's cries over time, but it is not automatic
- It may take weeks or even months for a mother to bond with her baby
- Babies take up most of their mother's time with its needs
- A mother must express her own needs and learn to nurture herself to be able to nurture her family
- A mother needs to keep alive her own dreams for herself and long term plans for her future
- It is OK for a mother to ask for help and to share the care of her baby - it takes a village to raise a child
(Lara Bishop: Postnatal Depression families in turmoil. Halstead Press, NSW. 1999).
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