Depression can be hard to comprehend, not to mention appreciate, for those who have not personally experienced such an illness. It is harder again to fathom if you have never seen a family member or ‘loved one’ spiral down beyond help or reprieve. Our family lost a loved one to depression over a decade ago and his passing still feels unresolved. For me the enormity of depression feels even more daunting when innocent children are involved.
Worldwide 13% of women who give birth suffer Post Natal Depression and recent research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry reports that in 50% of couples where the mother is depressed, the father is also depressed. But unfortunately it is not just the parents who suffer, children whose parents are depressed are at an increased risk of social, psychological and cognitive problems. Furthermore, a father’s depression alone has been found to double the risk of emotional and behavioural problems in children at three and a half years of age.
PND is separate and distinct from ‘Baby Blues’ which can affect up to 80% of new mothers. The main cause for ‘baby blues’ is the abrupt drop in hormone levels which leads to weepiness, anxiety or even mild depression usually occuring in the first week after the birth. ‘Baby blues’ appear to be the body’s way of re-balancing hormones and from all accounts is a completely normal physiological process which disappears of its own accord after a few hours or a few days at the most. However if symptoms last longer than this, then women are advised to contact their early childhood centre, midwife or GP as they may be suffering initial signs of PND. Chiropractic, Chinese herbs and homeopathy would be particularly helpful ancillary approaches at this time.
Post Natal Depression PND most frequently starts during the second or third month after birth and significantly reduces quality of life for both mother and child, ultimately influencing her capacity to care for her infant. Symptoms of PND are similar to Baby blues but more extreme and they last longer. Women with PND may also experience sleeping and eating difficulties as well as feelings of guilt and despondency. The sooner one seeks professional help, the more efficacious the results.
New fathers with PND (or Paternal PND) may present with a number of symptoms including difficulty sleeping, irritability, poor concentration and even substance abuse. According to current research some men are at risk of becoming involved in destructive behaviour, or [they] stay away from the situation – indulge themselves in work or sport to get away from it.
Depression in either parent can take its toll on the family. According to the Fathers Direct website (www.fathersdirect.com) more relationships breakdown in the early years of fatherhood than at any other time, most likely as a result of the stress associated with parenting.
First time parenting can be extremely taxing and research indicates that preparation is key. There are some fabulous community programs available for parents and ‘parents-to-be’ helping them to prepare for the unexpected challenges of parenting which may warrant investigating or consideration well before a baby arrives. Some programs may have a religious tagline, but do not let that be an aversion as the content of these courses are invaluable.
“Bringing Your Baby Home” is a program for couples expecting their first baby or who have a baby under 12 months of age. The program assists couples to build knowledge and skills to constructively manage the many changes that occur with the birth of a child. The program was developed by Drs John and Julie Gottman and has a very strong research base. Their research found that healthy infant development, good parenting and raising children who are emotionally connected go hand in hand with parents who have a good, satisfied relationship.
Go to “programs’, “Marriage education”, “Other programs”
What To Do About PND? / How Do I Get Help?
PND is a very serious illness and it is vitally important that men and women seek assitance during early stages. The information available to assist men and women suffering PND is extensive and beyond the scope of a blog. Please review the following websites for any querries that you may have.
Here in Australia there is a fabulous foundation called beyondblue and their website https://www.beyondblue.org.au/index.aspx?link_id=94 provides clear and comprehensive information about PND.
In New Zealand : www.mentalhealth.org.nz
These sites answer common questions including:
- how to recognise the symptoms
- how to help someone
- the risk factors
- the treatments
- how to stay well.
On this site you can download information and beyondblue also provides links to websites where additional information can be found.
Find out about beyondblue’s research into postnatal depression and the beyondblue National Action Plan for Perinatal Mental Health.
Some Other Points To Consider – Once You Have Reviewed The Above Websites:
- One in five Australian women suffer depression after giving birth, so taking a pivotal role in the decision-making is vital.
Parents need to discuss and let go of any fixed birth expectations and focus on a safe and nurturing experience. Preparing mentally and physically for the myriad of birth outcomes prevents lingering resentments and guilt, as each child and each birth is so unique.
- Mothers who have low Essential Fatty Acid levels are more prone to post-natal depression.
A recent study showed the efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids for PND was assessed in an eight week trial. Women demonstrated an approximate 50% decrease in symptomatology.
Without adequate EFA levels in our bodies, our nervous system has difficulty passing accurate nerve messages and offering appropriate feedback to our brain, resulting in an array of health problems.
- Research has found that many patients with autism, major depression, post-partum depression and multiple sclerosis are also deficient in Omega-3
Good quality fats and oils are a rich source of Omega 3’s.
GOOD FATS – Cold water fish, Meats and chicken(with excess fat removed), Nuts, nut butters, nut oils, seeds, Free-range organic eggs, Avocado, Organic butter, high quality cheese and yoghurt, Oil supplements
GOOD OILS – Any oil that you use needs to be cold pressed and non-hydrogenated, coconut oil, organic olive oil, macadamia, avocado, flaxseed and sesame oil
- Increasing B vitamins during the post-birth period may help mothers to better cope with fatigue, anxiety and emotional highs and lows.
Vitamin B12 in particular may help mothers combat fatigue and increase energy levels. Food sources: beef, eggs, white fish and oily fish (including sardines), shellfish, liver and kidney, milk, cheese, yoghurt, spirulina, seaweed, kelp, raw bran, wheatgerm, molasses, mushrooms, peanuts, soy beans (including tempeh and miso), sprouts and sunflower seeds.
Vitamin B6 is needed for the production of serotonin, the feel-good transmitter of the nervous system. It is suggested that increasing foods rich in vitamin B6 may help to relieve mild depression, anxiety, tiredness and premenstrual syndrome.
- Depression is commonly linked with Candida – therefore addressing dietary needs to rebalance the body’s natural flora is critical
Here’s a great way to raise both awareness and money for the Post Natal Depression – Support the Gidget Foundation. This group are not only raising awareness but developing initiatives to help identify pregnant women vulnerable to PND.
You can make a donation online or volunteer services www.gidgetfoundation.com