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Thinking ahead to reduce your risk of PND

A mother smiling at her newborn babyWhen you’re pregnant, your mind is often preoccupied with the impending birth and your growing baby’s needs.

But it’s also the perfect time to think ahead to your own emotional needs in the weeks after your baby is born to help reduce your risk of postnatal depression and anxiety. There are known factors that put people more at risk so there are things you can do now that could help lessen your risk later.

Thinking ahead to reduce your risk of postnatal depression

You are perfect for your baby

Don’t be fooled by the image of the perfect mother. There is no such thing. Your baby has no way of comparing you to your ideal. The bond with your baby is a relationship and, like all relationships, it can take time to get to know each other. You might find it harder on some days than others. It is perfectly natural to feel ambivalent about being a mother at times. It doesn’t make you a lesser one. It just means you are human.

Trust yourself

With a myriad of different philosophies on baby care, you may feel bombarded with conflicting advice and ideas. Recognise that you are the expert on your baby. Trust your own instincts and pick and choose what works best. And remember that your baby hasn’t read the same parenting books as you! Although babies have similar needs, each has its own unique temperament and challenges. Your baby will keep changing and developing so a flexible approach often works best.

Go with the flow

Accept that the early weeks will revolve around feeding and sleeping. With your baby needing you a good deal of the time, it’s unlikely you will have control over your daily schedule (especially during the peak unsettled times between three to eight weeks). In the early days, feeding yourself and resting may need to be prioritised over doing laundry and cleaning. Having realistic expectations will help you to let go of your ‘to-do’ list and just go with the flow.

Expect to worry

Mothering and worrying tend to go hand-in-hand. Being concerned about the development and safety of your baby is nature’s way of ensuring their survival. It’s a sign that you are emotionally attached and that’s positive. You can lessen unnecessary worry by not thinking too far ahead or projecting potential worst-case scenarios. Adjusting to this new responsibility takes time so gently bring your mind back to the present moment in the early weeks.

Embrace the challenges

Nobody said it was going to be easy. Try adopting a ‘just do it’ attitude when attending to the baby’s needs without critiquing yourself or getting caught up in how hard you are working. Recognise the importance of all that you are doing no matter how tedious, tiring and underappreciated it may seem. A sense of satisfaction and pride will come from your efforts in time.

Keep connected with your partner

Having a baby is a life-changing event—for you and your partner. Try to support each other rather than turning things into a competition about who is working harder. Your relationship will evolve over this time and the more you communicate, the more equipped you will be to manage the changes and stay connected. Your partner is not a mind-reader so let them know what you need from them and how they can support you best.

Ask for help

The work of a mother is constant, often unseen and never complete. Give yourself permission to ask for help when you need it. Identify friends and family members who can provide you with support to cook, clean or care for others—including yourself. And if anyone offers help, accept it. Take advantage of community services if you don’t have the support you need. Let go of the unrealistic mantra ‘I should be able to do it alone.’

Don’t hide your feelings

Lean on your support system for emotional support as well. Find a confidante. Don’t be ashamed to express your fears, fatigue or frustrations. If the birth or breastfeeding don’t go to plan, talk these things through early with someone who can assist you. Sharing your experience with others can help you to feel better and to know that you are not alone.

 

But remember, while it’s normal as a new mother to experience a range of positive and negative emotions, if you are struggling to understand your thoughts or feelings and it’s affecting your day-to-day life and functioning, then don’t wait. If you’ve experience these symptoms for two weeks or more, speak to your partner, a friend or your GP about getting professional support to help you through the experience.

 

If you are anyone you know if struggling with perinatal anxiety or depression speak to your GP or health care professional. You can also call PANDA’s free National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306. The helpline operates Monday to Friday from 9am to 7:30pm EST.

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2 comments so far -

  1. I have just read your article on reducing your risk of post natal depression and I am feeling rather horrified.
    There is no known cause for PND and by you telling mums to be that they can work to prevent it is completely misleading.
    What you are talking about is post natal anxiety when you state that a mum should ‘go with the flow’.
    Post natal depression is not about that.
    I had PND and if someone told me to just ‘go with the flow’ or ‘not compare myself to other mums’ I would have cried.
    I had a deeply dark time for 2 years after my son was born and no one knows why. I was suicidal as I just didn’t want to be here anymore and it had nothing to do with how I saw myself as a parent.
    I was just clinically depressed.
    The Drs said it could be hormonal, they just don’t know.
    Your article puts the responsibility on the mother that if they take care of themselves and think correctly they won’t experience PND. That is completely irresponsible.

    • Hi Julie, Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m very sorry to hear of your experience with postnatal depression. It is a terrible illness and it affects far too many people.

      After reading your comment, I have added an extra paragraph to the end of this article to highlight to any readers who may be already experiencing postnatal depression that there is a difference between the normal anxieties and worrying of early parenthood and the symptoms of PND, and if they’re experiencing PND to seek help.

      You’re right, the causes of PND aren’t known and anybody can develop PND. But there are known factors that put people more at risk – things like lack of support for example – so there are protective factors that can help lessen your risk. We have a similar article written by the CEO of PANDA – on how men can lessen their risk too, https://www.bubhub.com.au/hubbub-blog/3-ways-new-dads-can-stay-healthy-and-avoid-pnd/

      But unfortunately there’s no guarantees and we hope that any pregnant woman reading this knows that no one is immune and to seek help if they are already feeling depression or anxious in pregnancy – as this is another risk factor for developing PND.

      It wasn’t our intention to upset anyone with this article and we are sorry that we have left you feeling horrified. We do not want others who have suffered PND to think that the onus was on them to avoid it, and that somehow it is their fault that they couldn’t. This is absolutely not the case.

      We aim to be a place of support and of information. We truly want to help in whatever small way we can to help reduce the number of people who experience PND. I hope that makes sense. All the best.

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