What is perinatal mental illness?
Perinatal depression is a mental illness experienced during pregnancy (known as antenatal or prenatal meaning ‘before birth’) or after child birth (known as postnatal or post-partum meaning ‘after birth’). It covers the period from conception through to one year after birth, although there are recommendations that that should be extended to two years after birth.
The Royal College of General Practitioners tell us that
“1 in 5 women are affected by perinatal mental illness and up to 50% of those cases go undetected”
What are the symptoms of Perinatal depression?
‘Normal’ pregnancy symptoms can appear similar to perinatal depression, due to changes in hormones, such as being tired, weight gain etc.
Symptoms that may indicate that you’re suffering from perinatal depression include:
- feeling sad and hopeless (frequent crying)
- negative thoughts about yourself
- trouble sleeping (Insomnia)
- fatigue or low energy
- changes in appetite
- loss of enjoyment or pleasure in doing things or being with people
- increased anxiety
- having trouble bonding with your baby (known as poor fetal attachment)
- feelings of guilt
- you might feel like you can’t cope
- Reduced appetite
- If you are experiencing any of these symptoms then please don’t ignore them, there is help available. Make an appointment with your GP, or discuss your concerns with your Midwife or Health Visitor as soon as possible.
Treatment for Perinatal depression
If you suffer with perinatal depression your GP or other health professional can help you develop a treatment plan which might include some of the following:
Antidepressants work by balancing mood-altering chemicals (neurotransmitters) in your brain and may be prescribed if you suffer with moderate to severe depression.
They can help relieve some of the symptoms of depression by causing a change in your brain chemistry, this can help lift your mood. Your GP will be able to advise on which anti-depressant will be best for you. Make sure you ask about any risks if you are breastfeeding or pregnant. Do not assume that you cannot take antidepressants and continue to breastfeed. Talk through your options with your GP and check out The Breastfeeding Network Information Pack for more information.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
A type of therapy in which negative patterns of thought are challenged in order to alter unwanted behaviour patterns or treat mood disorders such as depression and aims to improve mental health. CBT is a talking therapy that focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions (e.g. thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes) and behaviours, it can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.
Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
A type of therapy that focuses on your relationships with others, especially those who are close to you (i.e. family, partner). You might withdraw yourself from the people who care about you, often due to feelings of shame and feeling like a failure. Improving these relationships can significantly improve your health.
During IPT you might discuss conflict within a relationship, arguments, life changes, grief, loss, difficulties starting or maintaining relationships or that any other factor that affects how you feel about yourself and others.
Both CBT and IPT are short term therapies recommended by NICE for treating depression.
Guided self-help on the NHS website there are digital resources that can help you learn new coping techniques. https://www.nhs.uk/apps-library/category/mental-health/
Self help for PND
There are also a few things you can try to help you cope with the symptoms of depression;
Look after your hygiene
Looking after your hygiene will not only benefit your general health it will help you feel better about yourself and will help with your confidence
Keep a mood diary
Write down how your feeling and what you were doing at the time, this can help you identify possible triggers.
Don’t pressure yourself, you ARE doing a great job!
Contact specialist organisations
Mind, the mental health charity – infoline on 0300 123 3393 (9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday) or email email@example.com
Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS) – helpline on 0843 28 98 401 (9am to 8pm, Monday to Sunday)
find local support or parent and baby groups
Access support through online support groups such as ours
Try a new hobby; some of the things we know new mums have enjoyed are knitting, reading, crafts, colouring, podcasts
You may choose to use other methods to support your mental wellbeing, either as well as, or instead of those detailed above. Holistic therapies can be a great boost for your mental health. We have listed some of our favourites below.
- Yoga (both flow and restorative)
- Mindfulness and Relaxation
- Art therapy
- Talking with others who are experiencing the same problems
PND Mummies is working to open a centre that will help support people suffering with Perinatal Depression and will offer a range of holistic therapies to support you in your recovery. To follow our progress or get in touch you can find us on Facebook, Twitter, Insta or at www.pndmummies.org.