Postnatal anxiety and depression happens not only after a first baby, it can occur after any baby. Sometimes it happens after a first baby only. Sometimes it happens with later babies.
Some new mums and dads are considered at higher risk of developing postnatal anxiety or depression due to issues occurring in their lives or their personal make ups. However, it’s important to note that many new parents can develop postnatal anxiety or depression even if they have no particular risk factors. It simply happens. Some of the factors that might contribute to postnatal anxiety and depression include:
- Family or personal history of anxiety or depression: If anxiety or depression runs in the family, or if you have had past episodes of depression, this may increase the chances of developing postnatal anxiety or depression.
- Traumatic birth: Unexpected C-section, premature delivery, prolonged and painful labour and other medical complications can cause a traumatic birth which can negatively affect a new mum’s emotional and mental well-being.
- Birth disappointment: 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 labor or a postnatal period not eventuate the new mother can feel less than a good mother, combined with the emotional and physical scars that remain.
- Relationship difficulties: If you or your partner or extended families are experiencing difficulties this can have a major impact on your emotional well-being.
- Controlling or abusive behaviour: If a partner engages in controlling behaviour or emotional abuse, such as yelling, threats of physical abuse, controlling finances or other efforts to exert control, this can have a negative impact on the emotional and mental well-being of both mum and the baby.
- Family violence: We know that family violence becomes more common in early parenthood. While this can involve physical or sexual abuse, it can also include some of the controlling behaviour listed above. This usually negatively affects the well-being of both mum and the baby, as well as any potential physical damage.
- Stressful life events: Any major life change, such as a move to a bigger home in anticipation of the baby's arrival, divorce, or job loss, can contribute to anxiety or depression.
- A troubled pregnancy: severe morning sickness or concerns about the development or viability of the baby can take its emotional toll even once the baby is born, especially if treatment involved high degrees of monitoring or immobility.
- Fertility issues or previous pregnancy loss: If you have experienced difficulties trying to get pregnant, or have had a miscarriage or stillbirth in the past, it is understandable that you may be anxious about the health and safety of your new baby.
- Past history of abuse: Pregnancy and birth can trigger painful memories for those who have survived emotional, sexual, physical, or verbal abuse.
- Lack of social support: Social isolation can contribute to depression or anxiety.
- Financial difficulties: Financial problems can also significantly increase the amount of stress during pregnancy.
If you are experiencing any of these issues or concerns and it is affecting your emotional or mental wellbeing, then please seek support as early as possible. The sooner you can be treated the more quickly you can recover.