Post Natal Depression is very common with around one in seven Australian women experiencing this. Some studies suggest women with diabetes will suffer increased risks. Some people even find that depression can start in pregnancy, called antenatal depression – as the worries about how they will manage become larger.
For women with diabetes, the extreme effort put in before and during the pregnancy, followed by the rush of hormones, changes to your body and diabetes, with unpredictable swings in blood glucose and fears about looking after your own health at the same time as this amazing, tiny and fragile human being, can lead to depression. The feelings, physical signs, thoughts and behaviour that can be brought about by postnatal depression will vary widely. They can show up as mild signs that noticeably come and go over various periods of time, to severely unpleasant feelings and thoughts that never seem to go away, or progressively worsen.
More than “the blues”.
It is normal to experience the “baby blues” in the days following your baby’s birth.
A mum with type 1 diabetes says:
“I remember the intense and overwhelming tears, anxiety about being separated from my baby and crying for no reason at all (or because I got served the wrong breakfast!), that comes with the “baby blues”. This short lived period, relates to the change in hormones and the natural ups and downs of emotion following the birth of a baby. I also remember the dark times when I developed postnatal depression following the birth of my first and second babies. This intense and deeply distressing experience of depression at a time when you are expected to be in a warm glow, is scary and isolating.”
The range of expressions (or feelings) of postnatal depression can bring about an immense inner struggle for the woman, who may feel that something is ‘not quite right’, but is confused and/or guilty because she thinks that ‘by all accounts’ she should be happy with her beautiful baby. Women can also feel shocked, or angry, if they expected to be happy and content at this time in their lives, but are not. Other women may ‘block out’ or ‘shut down’ their feelings, to avoid (or deny) their emotions and the depression.
Recognising and acknowledging the signs of postnatal depression is an important first step. Reaching out, regardless of how severe the depression feels, is the start of working towards the healing process, and curtailing any worsening of the depression.
Women with postnatal depression may experience some, or a number of the following:
- Having a very ‘low’ or ‘flat’ mood.
- Constantly feeling sad and/or guilty, and/or ashamed.
- Having low self-esteem, lack of confidence, feeling worthless, inadequate or a ‘failure’ as a mother.
- Feeling exhausted, empty, sad or tearful.
- Feeling out of control, or a sense of helplessness or hopelessness.
- Feeling nothing – numb. Feeling anxious or panicky.
- Fear for the baby (or of the baby).
- Fear of being alone or going out.
- Feelings of anger and resentment toward yourself and/or the baby that do not go away.
- Fear of being rejected, or unwanted by your partner.
- Having little energy, being lethargic, even when having regular sleep.
- Wanting to sleep all the time.
- Insomnia, unable to sleep – tired but yet can’t sleep (particularly in the early hours of the morning).
- Frequent nightmares.
- Lack of concentration, poor memory.
- Inability to think clearly, or make decisions.
- Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities.
- Not interested in relating to others.
- Reduced interest in having sex.
- Loss of appetite as the depression worsens.
- Mild depression may be associated with ‘comfort eating’ for some women.
- Not motivated to want to do anything.
- Withdrawing from social contact, lack of social confidence.
- Obsessive behaviour- wanting to pace, walk or clean all the time.
- Some women will ‘over-emotionalise’ their cleaning activities.
- Making it something that helps them to regain control, to feel good about oneself or feeling a failure if it is not done.
- Not looking after usual personal hygiene. Inability to cope with the daily routine.
- Wanting to run away.
- Not wanting to be a mother – wishing to be someone else or that the child was older.
- Frightened about harming yourself and/or the baby.
- That the baby would be ‘better off without you’.
- Ideas about suicide.
- Worried about your partner leaving you, or harm and death coming to your partner, or the baby.
If you notice a few of these signs for short periods of time, this may be normal, and you probably do not have a severe problem. However, if you notice a combination of more than 4 signs for at least 2 weeks or more, especially feeling very ‘low’ or ‘flat’ and losing interest in your daily activities, you need to seek help.
Because these feelings can seem very scary, or ‘wrong’ many women are often reluctant to verbalise them to others. However, these feelings are a normal part of a psychological illness, which needs to be dealt with in positive ways. Sharing what you are going through, with someone you trust can start you on the path to recovery. They are not reflective of how you are as a person, or the type of mother that you are.
Beyond Blue website for postnatal depression