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Hello, You are warmly welcome
If you are thinking any of these things: ‘What is wrong with me’; ‘why am I feeling like this’; ‘I just can’t cope’; ‘How long will this last’ ; ‘Am I going mad?’ ; ‘If anyone knew what I was thinking they’d think I’m not fit to look after small children’ then we promise you are not alone. Everyone here will have had some, or all, of these feelings at some point to a great or lesser extent. We are here to help. You will find no judgement here.
You can have a read though these very common questions and then when you feel ready, maybe post and tell us how you are feeling. If you’d rather no one knew who you are, you can post ‘ANON’ – just register and log in as yourself and then tick the box that says “Make this post anonymous” to remove your name.
One thing we promise: there will be nothing you can tell us that we haven’t either heard before or experienced between us. You are not alone.
We also have an online ‘Wellbeing’ course, six videos that will help you if you’re suffering from PND, anxiety, depression or simply having a bad day. Click here to access our course and you might find it useful to take our Mental Health Quiz
[Permission to view this image is denied]The Channel Mum Support Group would not be possible without a kind donation from Iceland Foods. Their support enables us to support you #YANA You can read more here.
What is Antenatal Depression?
Antenatal or prenatal depression is a relatively new term, although not a new thing. It used to be that the only depression linked with pregnancy was PND and anything before this was simply classed as being “hormones” which didn’t help the mum suffering those 9 months of despair at all.
Recent studies have shown that around one in 30 women can experience depression or severe anxiety in pregnancy. It makes complete sense when you consider the changes your body is going through, the emotions that having a baby brings to the fore and the pressures of worrying about finances. Although the majority of cases of depression disappear with the birth of the baby, about a third of these 1 in 30 can go on on to suffer from postnatal depression. So it is incredibly important that if you think something is wrong, don’t put them to the back of your mind and assume it’s down to hormones or tiredness, talk to your midwife or GP, or talk to your family or a good friend. Please talk to us here. Your post may also help other mums who are feeling the same way. You are not alone.
Symptoms on Antenatal depression may include:
Is there anything I can do to prepare myself while pregnant?
There is no reason to worry unnecessarily about how you’ll cope when your baby is here. But there is a bit of preparation you can do ,which won’t take long and might really help if you do find you are struggling a little or a lot after the baby is here.
When we are pregnant we do lots to prepare physically: we go to ante natal classes, we think about how we are going to feed our baby, we think about what pain relief we’ll want in pregnancy and what we might do if things don’t go according to our Birth Plan and of course we shop and we buy lots of gorgeous baby things
Being prepared makes a big difference and in case you may find yourself emotionally struggling after having your baby is just a sensible thing to do. It’s not about ‘thinking the worst’ it’s just good common sense.
The fact that you think about these things now in advance, is just a bit like first aid training: you might not need it, you hope you won’t, but it’s good to have it if you do. And don’t just think about it: write them down. It’s all the more powerful to have it in your own handwriting: if you are exhausted, anxious or not quite yourself, it will mean more to you to see it written up by yourself rather than someone else telling you.
Ask yourself and answer questions like:
You might also find it useful to think of ways you can cope, what actions could you take if you start to feel unwell and see what you could put into practice now so by the time your baby arrives you’ve already developed some positive habits to look after yourself. Some ideas that might appeals are:
Remember antenatal and postnatal depression can happen to anyone and you’re taking a great first step in preparing yourself and those close to you.
There is a good plan on the Boots Family Alliance website here which gives you some things to think about.
If you never got round to making your plan and your baby is here and you feel not quite yourself, talk to us and we can help you with a plan for now. You are not alone.
What are the Baby Blues?
The Baby Blues affect 30-80% of new mums during the first few days after birth. Day 3 is usually the crying day for new mums when the euphoria (or shock) of birth and meeting your baby has worn off and the huge chemical and hormonal changes occur in your body after giving birth, not to mention the whole physical feat of it leaving you exhausted mentally, physically and emotionally.
You may feel a bit all over the place and like you want to cry without really knowing why. You may feel overwhelmed, anxious, emotional, irrational, irritable or touchy. These feelings are totally common, absolutely normal and usually only last for a few days. Allow your tears to fall, have a really good cry, be gentle and kind with yourself, don’t try to control it and just let it wash over you and pass on by. Most cases of Baby Blues will pass.
But if it continues, or feels like its getting worse, then that’s the time to look at it again, and talk about it a bit and wonder could you be starting to develop a bit of pnd…remember the earlier you catch PND the quicker you can get treated and get better.
What is PND?
Postnatal Depression (also known as PND or Postpartum depression) can occur anytime during the first year after you’ve given birth – and even after that. It is different from the Baby Blues as it is more severe and lasts longer. Symptoms of PND may include:
This is all SO common. When you look at those mum who look like they are finding this easy we guarantee most of them will have felt some of these things. The more we talk about it the more others will feel able to talk about it. We need to take those masks off and be a bit more honest about how we feel so we can support each other more. You are not alone.
What is Anxiety?
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear. It comes from the human reactions of ‘Fight or Fight’. When we were living in caves, and a tiger or rival tribe appeared, we had to be physically ready to either run away as fast as possible, or stay and fight and have all our senses (reaction times, strength etc) on full capacity. In modern times, we probably won’t meet a tiger (!) but we do have to do things like exams or job interviews or new experiences where we feel nervous and experience some of the same sensations to lesser extent. Our body releases adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol. Once this event is over, these feelings should go away and the body relax to normal.
However, some people find it harder to control their feelings and worries and their anxiety can then affect their daily life with worries about more than one situation or even having the feelings without quite knowing why: this is known as General Anxiety Disorder or GAD.
Symptoms of anxiety can include:
Stress and Anxiety are different but can co-exist and there may not be any signs of depression. It can be quite common in new mums – of course having a new baby is stressful! – But when it starts to effect your life: you can’t east, or sleep or go to social functions, or start getting symptoms of OCD, then it’s probably not quite normal anxiety and is tipping into the realms of Post Natal Anxiety (disorder) which you will need help with. Not only does it feel horrible but it will effect your quality of life to potentially a large extent. It is quit common and is taken seriously by health professionals. See your Health visitor or GP or talk to us here first if that makes the first step easier. What are your symptoms?
What is Postpartum Psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis sometimes (referred to as puerperal psychosis) is very rare (affects 1-2 women per 1,000.) It is a severe mental condition that requires urgent intervention and often requires hospitalisation.
It is now fully understood what causes Postpartum Psychosis but women who have a previous family history of mental illness or have a family member who has suffered with Postpartum Psychosis are more prone to the development of it. Similarly, if you have a personal history of depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia you more are more at risk. About 50% of women who have had an episode of postpartum psychosis will have another episode after a future pregnancy.
Your midwife will take a full medical history at your booking in session and if you are thought to be at risk you will receive specialist care and will be seen by a psychiatrist. There should be a pre-birth planning meeting at 32 weeks. This meeting should include everyone who is involved in looking after you such as your partner, family or friends, as well as all the health professionals involved such as obstetrician, midwife, health visitor, and GP. Everyone should be made aware of your risk of postpartum psychosis. The idea of this meeting is to agree a plan of care for you during and after birth and when you come home from hospital on how best to support you. This plan will be written down so everyone is aware of what has been agreed with details of how to spot postpartum psychosis and how to get help quickly if you become unwell with it.
After your baby is born and you come you should be closely followed up and have regular visits from the midwife, health visitor and a mental health nurse.
Symptoms usually start soon after giving birth within 2 weeks but they may occur later in some women usually when they stop breastfeeding or when their periods return. Often the woman does not realise she is ill and it is her partner, friends and family who realise she is not herself and seek help.
Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric and medical emergency and immediate help is needed. If it is not treated rapidly it can escalate quickly and the illness can result in self harm or harm to someone else as the woman is, quite literally, ‘out’ of her mind.
Symptoms of postpartum psychosis may include:
Don’t be afraid to call an ambulance if you or a friend or family member maybe getting close to tipping into psychosis.
How long will it last?
Duration of symptoms with any of these things are very variable. Earlier diagnosis tends to lead to a shorter duration of illness. The acute phase with the most severe symptoms tend to last 2 to 12 weeks. However, it is a serious illness and recovery can take 6-12 months or more. Most women do however make a complete recovery from the condition.
Postpartum psychosis can seriously disrupt family relationships and life. Bonding with your baby may be affected and it is not unusual to have a period of depression, anxiety or low confidence following on from postpartum psychosis. Some mums may feel sadness at the time they may have missed out on with their baby whilst they were ill. With support from your partner, family, friends, health visitor and mental health team you can overcome these feelings. Many women who have had postpartum psychosis do go on to have more children.
Why have I got this? What causes PND?
There is no single cause of Postnatal Depression and it is not clear why some mums develop PND and others don’t, just as it’s not known why some people may suffer from depression following a bereavement when another doesn’t.
It could be that the physical and mental ‘shock’ of giving birth whether it was traumatic or not could be a trigger for some mums. It may be that there are other issues such as socio-economic problems, a lack of a support network, other stresses being present in their life, a history of mental health issues either in themselves or a family member could all be risk factors. Or it could be that having a baby opens something in your mind or heart that you’ve tucked away but that now needs to be recognised.
The important thing to remember is that having PND isn’t your fault. It can affect anyone from any background and it isn’t anything to be ashamed of or feel guilty about. There is nothing you could do to prevent it, just as you didn’t do anything to cause it.
How long will this last, will I ever get better?
Yes, you will get better.
It totally sucks and it is overwhelming and it feels like it will never end – but you will get better. Once you accept you have pnd or anxiety and start to get help, you will find you have occasional good days. Then you start to have a few more good days. Gradually the good days outweigh the bad days. And eventually, the bad days will be rare and then one day, you’ll think ‘oh, I haven’t had a bad day for ages, I wonder if I’m cured’ but you’ll still have a slight nervousness that it might ‘come back’. And finally, you will accept that you are better .
There isn’t an exact length of time your PND will last and it is different for every mum. You may be lucky to be given a treatment that works for you straight away or it could be that the first medication you try isn’t right and you need to take a bit longer to find one that works. It might be that counselling is what will work for you and that is often dependant on waiting times in your local area.
The important thing to remember is to get help as soon as you can. You know what’s normal for you and if you think something just isn’t right talk to someone about how you are feeling and make sure they listen to you. Sadly it may take a few times of talking to your HV or GP to be taken seriously as a lot of early PND is put down to the baby blues or just the sheer exhaustion of the new routine of looking after a newborn but persevere and push for yourself. We know this isn’t easy at the best of times, least of all when you’re feeling down and lacking in motivation, worried about wasting time and so on – but you are as important as anyone else and if you’re not feeling right then you need the help you’re asking for. We are here to help every step of the way. Tell us if you need help asking for help.
Will this affect my child?
There is no easy answer for this. Life isn’t perfect and your child will experience a myriad of emotional issues through their childhood. Apart from basic food, warmth and shelter what really needs to thrive is love. Probably the hardest symptom of pnd is if you dont bond with, or love your baby. Please ask of help and this is a symptom of a illness and you will get better and you will love your baby. On the other side of the coin is the symptom of loving your baby to the point of extreme anxiety where you find yourself staying awake through the night to watch them and being unable to be apart from them for even a very short time.
An NSPCC study speaks of how PND and anxiety can impact the whole family, including children – this does make sense as a mum is suffering from mental illness where they struggle to look after themselves, then you could assume that she would not be able to give her children the right emotional care and attention, even if she can manage the physical side.
On the plus side, mums are great pretenders and we’ve heard many stories of mums who struggle on a daily basis with their own issues but go to great lengths to protect their children from this. There is also no hard rule that says a mum’s ability to care for her children will be affected by mental illness.
The important thing is not to put your head in the sand, but to reach out and talk about how your feeling and get help. As long as you are on the road to recovery, whether its a long or a short road, your children will be absolutely fine.
It differs for everyone but we can say that prevention, early recognition, treatment and support and friendship will shorten any negative impact on children and fast forward to a time when you can have more joy in all your lives.
What happens when I talk to my GP or Health Visitor about how I feel?
Often the first step in diagnosing PND or anxiety is via chatting to your health visitor and they should encourage you to make an appointment to speak with your GP. Or just book straight in with your GP. In some areas this isn’t always as easy as it sounds and you may not feel comfortable telling the receptionist why you need the appointment but remember you have nothing to be ashamed of and explaining to the receptionist what is wrong will help them see how important your need is and they should then book you in as soon as they can and make sure your appointment time is long enough for you to talk properly with your doctor. If you struggle with this then ask your HV or a friend or family member to make the appointment for you.
Sometimes with depression and anxiety your concentration and memory are affected and even if not it can be hard to speak about exactly how you’re feeling. You may find it helpful to write down a list of your moods and any specific incidents that have worried you to make sure you tell the GP everything they need to know. You could also write a list of questions that you want to ask so you don’t forget and there is nothing to stop you writing down the replies you receive so you can think on things properly when you’re home again.
Your GP will most likely work through a list of questions to help them identify the severity of your depression. They may ask if you’ve been feeling nervous, if you think you’ve been worrying too much and even whether you’ve thought of hurting yourself. Please don’t be scared by these questions, the fact that they ask doesn’t mean think you’re going to hurt yourself but it’s important to be as honest as possible. Some people who suffer from depression do have suicidal thoughts, this doesn’t mean they actually want to kill themselves just that they wonder what life would be like if they did, it’s simply a symptom that your GP needs to know about so they can prescribe the correct treatment and make sure you have the right level of support.
Admitting you’ve thought about hurting yourself or your baby will not mean they will ‘take your baby away’ but sadly so many mums think this and therefore don’t tell the truth when asked such questions. These feelings are symptoms of post natal depression and thats why they ask, so they can get closer to diagnosing you and helping you. Give as much information as you can as everything you tell the GP helps them to help you and the sooner you get the help you need, the sooner you’ll feel better. Talk to us if there are any strange thoughts or feelings you have that you feel you cannot admit to your doctor or health professionals. You can speak under ‘Anon’ here too if you are worried. We promise we won’t be shocked, we’ve shared quite a few very strange thoughts with each other!
What medication/treatment will I be offered?
Once you talk to your GP you can start to discuss the options for helping you feel better. Not everyone is happy taking anti-depressants as they feel they are ‘happy pills’ and will make them feel robotic or spaced out. In fact, those of us who have used antidepressants will tell you they helped make us feel ‘normal’ again. Don’t discount them any more than you would discount taking antibiotics.
You may be offered medication straight away also possibly referred for counselling. Or it could be that you and your GP want to leave it a little while and see how you are without any treatment and instead have you see your HV regularly, join a local support group and then see your GP again after a week or so to see how you feel then. Or do some CBT or counselling and see how that works. There is good evidence that talking therapy works well for post natal depression and talking online like this counts and has been proven to be able to help.
It all depends on the severity of your symptoms and importantly what YOU want. You may want to read more about the medication your GP has suggested before you make a decision. If you are breastfeeding it’s important you tell your GP this as this can make a difference to what medication you can take. It may be that your GP suggests you stop breastfeeding so you can take a specific medication, that is your decision and you will need to talk about the benefits and impact of this so you can decide what to do. If you don’t want to stop breastfeeding then you can ask for an alternative medication to try first.
There are many different types of medication to treat depression and anxiety and just because you know someone who took one and was back to herself within a couple of weeks does not mean the same will work for you. It sometimes takes a few weeks for the medication to have an effect and there may be some side effects while it starts to work, so give it time. If you find the medication really isn’t helping or even making you feel worse, tell your GP, they may then alter your dose or suggest a different one to try.
It’s important you know that medication isn’t a magic cure, you won’t suddenly feel better again but they should help balance your moods so you feel more able to cope. Once you are feeling stronger, it’s important you continue to take your medication until your GP agrees that you can stop and even then it may be that you reduce your dose gradually rather than stop immediately to make sure your depression doesn’t return.
Whether you’re offered counselling or not will depend on what is available in your area and what the waiting list is like. If you’re not sure then it’s always best to say yes and at least get on the waiting list, you aren’t wasting any ones time if you then change your mind later on but you are wasting your own healing time if you say no first and then want counselling later and have to start at the bottom of the waiting list. It can be really hard to talk to someone about how you’re feeling when you’re depressed and/or anxious but these people are specialists, they’ll know how you feel and will do what they can to put you at ease. Many mums find that talking about how they feel to a counsellor is so much easier than talking to someone close to them, they can be more open about how they feel without worrying that they will upset someone they love by being honest about how bad they really feel. Alongside medication counselling is proven to really help mums feel better.
What is CBT?
CBT stands for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It is a therapy that aims to change the way you think and behave by talking about the problems you’re facing now and helping to break down what feels overwhelming into smaller parts that are more manageable.
CBT usually lasts for between five and 20 sessions of up to one hour long. During each session you’ll work with your therapist to break down your problems and work out how you change unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. You will then put these changes into practice during your day to day life and discuss how you got on at the next session. Together with your therapist you’ll develop new skills that will help you alter any negative thoughts and actions even after your therapy has finished.
You do need to commit to the whole programme to be able to benefit from it fully, including acting on the practices you discuss during your session – it’s no good coming up with things to try but then not actually trying them.
The therapy can cause quite strong emotions as it causes you to look fully at the problems you’re facing which can be hard especially at the start of the course. We’ll be introducing some video CBT courses here and by watching and talking to other mums you may feel more motivated to keep going.
How can I look after myself if I’m suffering with PND or Anxiety?
There is lots of support out there for mums who suffer from PND and anxiety but it’s not always easy to access when you’re suffering from depression or feel anxious about reaching out to people.
Some days may be better than others and it’s important you try to recognise your own symptoms so you can tell when your mood and feelings may be taking a dip and put some things in place to help yourself.
We’ve put a list in place here with some idea on how to cope and get through the day:
Be Kind To Yourself
There are days when it may be tempting to pull the covers over your head and hide from the world. Getting up, getting dressed and taking care of your little one is a huge achievement and on the days when you can’t face doing anything else don’t put yourself down for the things you haven’t done, instead focus on what you have achieved and give yourself a pat on the back for getting through the day. It’s hard work simply surviving some days so be kind to yourself for doing just that!
Look at what you do have and learn to list little things you can be grateful for.
Be happy that your baby woke you up in the middle of the night because it means you’re needed.
Be happy that you have housework to do because it means you have a home.
Accept all offers of help gratefully, people like to feel useful and if washing your pots or doing a load of ironing for them helps them feel they are making a difference, then be thankful that you have someone in your life who cares. You can do the same for another new mum one day.
Watch our Maternal Mental Health course and think about setting up one of the gratitude jars Emma Kenny speaks about.
Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
Everyone is different and does things differently and at different times. There is no such thing as supermum or a perfect mum; so don’t look at the mum next to you and compare yourself and your baby unfavourably especially as the chances are she’ll be doing the exact same thing and putting herself down too, regardless of what you think. Accept that you are unique and no-one else can do YOUR best as good as you can.
Set yourself achievable aims. Make a list of the essential things you need to do each day and tick them off as you go so you can see exactly how much you have done every day. Put ’10 minutes to myself’ at the top of the list everyday.
Look After Yourself
Get as much rest and relaxation as you can.
Eat a healthy balanced diet and eat regularly as low blood sugar can make you feel worse. Take a good multivitamin if you aren’t eating properly. Avoid alcohol if you are using it to make yourself feel better as it won’t help even in the short term.
Be as active as you can as the endorphins released can help make you feel relaxed and even make you smile. It doesn’t have to be a full aerobics workout, speed cleaning can get your heartrate up and help you tick things off your to do list so a win win!
Try and get out for a walk every day and say hello to people. It can be harder to find people to walk with if you don’t know people in the area, so making mum friends is a big thing to explore. We can help you with this
Talk To Others
Communication is important, people might think they know how you feel but they won’t know for sure unless you tell them. Talk to your friends and family, let them know your worries and anxieties, they may not understand fully but they will listen and talking things out may help you sort out things in your own mind so you understand yourself a bit better too.
If you’re not sure what to say or how to start a conversation, talk to other mums in our forum. Once you’ve had the conversation a few times with other mums here, it will be easier to say it out loud to (certain) friends and family.
Paint your nails, soak in a hot bubble bath, buy a magazine and treat yourself to a hot chocolate with marshmallows in the local cafe while you read it. Play your favourite music loud while you cook your favourite food. Straighten your hair, put an outfit on that you love, invite your friend round for a chat… Whatever you like to do, do something that will make you feel good about yourself and tell yourself you deserve that treat because you do.
Don’t Neglect Your Relationship
We know it’s hard to manage simple day to day things at times and if there is anyone who should understand and love you regardless then it’s your partner but make time to be part of a couple. Tend to your relationship, don’t just take it for granted. Being together and talking will help strengthen you both and you need to be strong to feel well. Book a babysitter if you can and go out, if you don’t have a babysitter then put the kids to bed early while you enjoy a takeaway together. Maybe turn off the telly and put some music on and have an hour together with no tv, phones, etc.
Ask For Help
Tell your health visitor or GP how you feel, don’t suffer in silence. Your your anxieties and depression will spoil your enjoyment of being a mum so it’s so important to get help soon so you can recover faster. Being a new mum is hard, but it shouldn’t be THAT hard. How much is tiredness and how much is an illness making your feel like this? You won’t know until you try. Don’t ever feel ashamed, postnatal depression and anxiety can affect anyone. Pretty much everyone at Channel Mum have had at least some experience of it. It’s nothing you did or didn’t do. The quicker you ask for help, the more quickly you will recover.
Watch the Channel Mum Maternal Health Course
Channel Mum Psychologist-in-residence Emma Kenny has put together an amazing six week course for mums suffering from PND, Anxiety or just having a bad day. The course will help you look at how you’re really feeling and gives you things to try to help you cope.
View the course here
We also have some podcasts that teach you mindful breathing and how to relax, listen to those here
Can dads get PND?
Poor Dads. They are expected to be ‘new men’ and give you all the emotional care you need. They are expected to do all the running around while you look after the baby. They are supposed to share the night feeds and walking the landing and go to work after a week or two at home with their new baby. No wonder Dad’s can also get PND. PND isn’t necessarily linked with the hormones or physical act of giving birth and dads are just as likely to be affected by the exhaustion and worries that a new baby can bring as a mum is, possibly more so if they’re still working and worrying about their partner and baby at home.
If you’re a dad and you aren’t feeling right, you’re not as happy as you think you should be and you know it’s not just tiredness from sleepless nights, speak to your GP and tell him honestly how you feel. You may have an older GP who doesn’t think dads can get PND but it is still depression whatever they want to label it and the treatment should be the same. Don’t be ashamed, it takes a strong person to own up to not feeling right and asking for help.
If you’re a mum and you can tell something isn’t right with your partner, talk to him. We know it’s stereotyping but some men refuse to admit to feeling down, they want to be the strong one in the relationship and it may take a few tries at the conversation before they admit how they’re feeling. You can talk to your health visitor about this even if they won’t and get some advice on what options are available for him and you. Just as with a mum suffering from PND, it’s important you let him know that this isn’t his fault and he shouldn’t be ashamed. It’s said to affect one in five fathers so he’s definitely not alone.
Dad’s are totally welcome as much as mums to talk to us here. Or if they prefer to talk just to other Dads, they can pop over to our friends at The Dad Network.
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