By Lindsay Perlman

How often do we hear stories of pregnancy, birth and early parenting all going exactly to plan? 

More often than not, the ideas we have in our minds of how things should be, do not merge with the eventuating reality, even if it is the second, third or fourth time around.

Every pregnancy, birth, and baby is different and this can have a significant influence on how we feel about ourselves, our baby and about our early parenting experiences.

With or without challenging pregnancy or birth experiences, the messages women receive about mothering can be both confusing and unrealistic.

Women are often made to think that mothering is a completely natural and intuitive experience, both effortless and fulfilling.

In reality, there is no formal training and very little guidance, often leaving women feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of what it takes to care for a tiny human being.

Coupled with the exhaustion of caring for a newborn is the expectation that every mother will easily and automatically bond with her new baby and be able to respond intuitively to her baby’s needs.

This is often not the case. A stressful birth, complicated delivery or difficulty breastfeeding can place stress on the mother, leaving her feeling anxious and unsure about how she feels towards her new baby and inadequate as a parent.

We now know that 1 in 7 new mothers will experience some form of postnatal depression, which can include strong mood swings, anxiety, irritability, loss of enjoyment and becoming socially withdrawn. These symptoms can affect the new relationship between a mother and her baby and early intervention is extremely important to assist with bonding. 

If you think you may be suffering from PND, or if you know someone who you think might be vulnerable, here are some early signs to look out for. Please bear in mind that this list is not conclusive and anyone who is not feeling their usual self or is not behaving as they usually do, should seek support.
- Low mood, sadness
- Tearfulness
- Lack of energy
- Self-blame or guilt
- Lack of interest or pleasure in life and activities
- Sleep disturbance
- Intrusive thoughts
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Anxiety

Getting help early can make a great difference to both the mother’s health and her attachment to her baby, so it’s really important to seek professional support as soon as possible, starting with your GP. Psychological support as well as support and patience from family and friends are perhaps the most important factors in a woman’s recovery from postnatal depression. Fortunately there is a great deal of support in Australia for new mums who are suffering from PND. Above all though, it’s important to remember that PND is a temporary condition that will pass. 

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