Our Health Information Line receives calls and emails from women on a broad range of health issues. This regular column features answers to some of the most commonly asked questions.
Question: I had a baby 12 weeks ago and was expecting to feel so elated about being a new mother. However, I don't really feel a connection to my baby like I was expecting, which makes me feel really guilty. Most days I feel sad and alone and like there is no end in sight.
It is common for new mothers to experience a period of adjustment when they have a new baby. Women are coming to terms with the enormity of being responsible for this new person as well as the physical demands of feeding and sleep deprivation. In addition, women don’t always feel immediately connected to their new baby and this can be confusing and distressing to them.
However, if you have had these feelings of sadness, aloneness and disconnection for more than a period of two weeks, you may be suffering from postnatal depression. There are many different symptoms of postnatal depression including sleep disturbances, changes in appetite and weight and a lack of energy and motivation. Women commonly report feeling inadequate, guilty, ashamed, low in mood, fearful and lacking in confidence. They may also experience a loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed.
If this describes how you are feeling and you think you may have postnatal depression, the first step is to consult a health professional that you are comfortable with. This could be your GP, midwife or a child health nurse. They will ask you some questions about how you have been feeling and how you have been coping as a new mother. They may ask you a series of questions known as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scale.
Treatment for postnatal depression depends upon its severity but usually involves psychological therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy (MCBT). Medications such as antidepressants can also form part of a treatment plan.
There are also many ways that you can help yourself such as maintaining a healthy diet and exercising. Aim to eat regular meals incorporating fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, wholegrains and low fat dairy products. While drinking tea, coffee or cola can provide a temporary pick-me-up, try and avoid relying on caffeine as it can interfere with sleep and exacerbate any feelings of anxiety. Regular physical activity is an excellent way to improve one’s mood and sense of wellbeing. Activities such as walking, yoga, Pilates and swimming are all ideal, as they are not too strenuous.
Remember that postnatal depression affects many women each year but help is available. If you would like to talk with one of our midwives about your feelings, you can contact the Health Information Line on 3216 0376 or 1800 017 676 (toll free outside Brisbane).
Last updated: June 2015
© Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. This article was written by Kirsten Braun and reviewed by the Women's Health Queensland Wide editorial committee in June 2015. It was first published in Health Journey 2015 Issue 2.