Postnatal mental health conditions are very common. After the birth of your baby you are more at risk of developing a mental health condition than at any time of your life, whether you are a mother or a father. It is well known that depression and anxiety are common in this post-partum period, but you might also be at risk of developing other conditions too, or you might see a resurgence of previous symptoms. It is important to keep track of any symptoms that develop as many people just put it down to be tired and adjusting to new baby.
Having a new baby increases the stress and pressure in your life in so many ways (fatigue, financial stress, relational stressors etc). Stress can be a risk factor for developing mental health conditions along with:
A personal or family history of mental health problems
Lacking practical, social and or emotional support
Current drug and/or alcohol problems
History of abuse (physical, sexual or emotional)
Having an anxious or perfectionist personality.
If you have a number of these risk factors you could be at risk of the development of a mental health condition (remember, they are only risk factors however, they do not mean you WILL get a mental health condition).
You can read more about postnatal depression and anxiety on our blog (click here). Knowing the signs and symptoms of these conditions can help you to seek help early if you notice these signs in yourself.
In some cases women experience postnatal psychosis (also called postpartum or puerperal psychosis). It is less common than postnatal depression and can develop in the first week, or up to 12 weeks after childbirth. It involves having difficulties thinking clearly, extreme mood swings, seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations), feeling everyone is against you (paranoia) and powerful delusions (beliefs that clearly conflict with reality). This is a medical emergency and a doctor should be contacted immediately. For more information click here.
In any situation where there is a mental health issue, the best course of action is early intervention. We know that when people seek help in the early stages their chance of a full recovery are increased and the impact on their lives is reduced. We also know that there are many barriers for new parents when it comes to seeking help. They worry that people will think they are going crazy, or that their baby will be removed from them. These kinds of worries can lead some people to hide their symptoms and try to put on a brave face, to convince everyone that they are okay. While we acknowledge these are real barriers, it is important that women speak with a health professional early. You can go to your GP or contact one of the parenting helplines for more information.