Well it’s been a sad week with the news of the Perth mother who was found unconscious beside her two dead twins – beautiful little seven-month-old babies who should have lived full and healthy lives.  The mum was known to be suffering from post-natal depression but obviously nobody realized just how distressed she was.  It’s a reminder to all of us to look out for family or friends who might be struggling to cope with a new baby.

Post-natal depression is actually more common than you might think.  About 16% of mums will experience post-natal depression after giving birth, which is almost 1 in 6.  I didn’t experience it myself, although I felt like everyone expected me to.  I did go through a brief period of depression after my daughter turned one and was weaned.  I’d had such a strong sense of purpose around breastfeeding for the first year that once it was over I sort of lost direction.  I think it also took me a while to adjust to life with a toddler, rather than a baby.

For those who are wondering about the difference between post-natal depression and any other kind of depression, the symptoms are actually the same.  Things to look out for are moodiness, irritability, overreacting to minor criticisms, losing interest in everyday activities, not sleeping well, being tired all the time, sudden weight loss or gain and often physical health complaints like unexplained pain.  Every Mum is going to have those overtired days where they burst into tears over something as silly as a tissue in the wash, but when it happens all the time, that’s when you should be concerned.

Women who are most at risk are those with a history of depression or anxiety and those who experience complications with their pregnancy or birth – like a difficult labour, a baby with major health problems or a baby who has difficulty breastfeeding or sleeping.  It’s usually caused by a combination of factors, but anything that makes life more stressful, such as moving house or being a single parent, can contribute.

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘That’s me’ or ‘That sounds like my wife’, please do seek out support from family and friends, but keep in mind that many women will also need help from a medical professional.  The Beyond Blue website is also a good starting point.  It has lots of useful information and a space for people to share their stories.  Remember, you are not alone.  Post-natal depression may be common, but that doesn’t make it any easier to live with.

Have you or your loved ones experienced post-natal depression? How did you deal with it?  What helped you turn the corner?  What do you wish people knew about post-natal depression?  How could friends and family be more supportive?

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