Postnatal depression (sometimes called postpartum depression) is a mood disorder which follows the birth of a child. It is not the somewhat dismissive “baby blues” nor is it inevitable or simply something you have to put up with. The symptoms can vary, but there is a good list here provided by Pandas, a peer led support group. I have been open about my own experience of postnatal depression, as I believe it is important to tackle the stigma around it.
Can Counselling help with PND?
If you look at the NHS choices website they will say that CBT helps with PND, and not mention any other talking therapies. This is more about the structure and biases of the NHS than evidence based research. Talking therapies can help PND sufferers immensely. As each birth is unique, so is each person’s PND, it may be caused by a combination of factors, including lack of confidence, loss of identity, money and relationship issues, relationship with your own mother, fear for the future, memories of your own childhood. This list is not exhaustive by any means, but touches on the many issues a birth of a child may raise. Counselling is the ideal situation to explore these issues, and what they mean to you. As an integrative therapist I use a variety of techniques, including mindfulness and solution focussed, all led by the client. For some people with PND however the most important thing is to be heard, to be able to express those “taboo” emotions around not enjoying motherhood, being the perfect mother, resentment or anger.
Sometimes the most powerful thing is to be able to say how you feel without fear of judgement or condemnation.
Therapy and medication.
There is absolutely no need to take an either or stance here. Medication can help people suffering from PND immensely and should not be seen as a barrier to also engaging in talking therapy.
Taking medication should never be seen as a sign of weakness, I like to remind clients that crutches are vital when you have a broken leg, so when people dismiss meds as a crutch they are in fact missing the point. They are a crutch, and sometimes people need crutches until they can walk on their own two feet again.
Partners and Postnatal Depression.
The non birth parent * can also struggle after a birth. Sometimes this is due to having to look after a new baby, a partner with postnatal depression and work. For others many of the same issues can be raised as previously mentioned. Similar taboos about being expected to cope, to be strong, can hit men doubly hard. It is difficult to be the rock on which the family relies when inside you feel like your foundations are crumbling.
Counselling can be incredibly helpful in all of these situations. It is a sad fact that many men never speak about their own emotional turmoil and struggles after a birth, silenced by our conventions around how “real men” behave. I like the analogy of a professional trainer in sport here. If you are trying to be the best you can be in sport no one bats an eye at turning to someone trained and skilled in helping you improve. Counselling, when all is said and done, is simply a skilled, trained professional helping you be the best you can be emotionally and mentally.
Ante Natal Depression.
Ante natal depression (depression in pregnancy) is a pretty new term, although it has always existed. It can be very difficult to admit to, the world expects you to “bloom” to have no conflicting emotions around the birth of a child, and most of all to fit the stereotype of the expectant mother. Research has shown that antenatal depression can be an indicator for postnatal depression. Talking therapies are incredibly effective in exploring conflicting emotions around pregnancy in a safe, non judgemental environment.
Support and help.
If you feel counselling may be the way forward to help you through your PND you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07442808719. Living with PND is incredibly hard, but I know from my own personal experience that there is light at the end of the dark tunnel. Online counselling (via skype) can be ideal for those with small children, as sessions take place from home at a time of your choosing.
There are a number of organisations which offer peer led support such as PANDAS and the NCT . If you use twitter the pnd community is incredibly welcoming and uses #PNDchat and #PNDhour (weekly on wednesday)
If you are feeling suicidal and need immediate help, the Samaritans offer round the clock trained volunteers
- A note on language, I am very aware that more family structures exist than the traditional mother, father and child. Many people of different genders, or none can be parents. I have attempted to make the language here inclusive, whilst still being accessible to those used to thinking of all mothers as women and all fathers as men.