Postnatal Depression (PND) is incredibly common, affecting 1 in 10 women within a year of giving birth. Christian Bates, owner of The Perrymount Clinic, and Tamsin Brewis, owner of Water Babies (waterbabies.co.uk) in Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire, offer their advice to mums and dads (let’s not forget them!) who are affected by PND and anxiety.
“First things first, it’s nothing to be ashamed of,” says Tamsin, who suffered from depression after the birth of her second child. As women, we tend to want to be seen as being totally in control and able to cope with what is, frankly, a shocking and disorientating change to our lives. It may well be planned to the nth degree – that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work out that way. And that’s ok. I experienced PND myself and, looking back, I didn’t realise it was happening to me at the time. That’s a really common thing I hear from mums on a daily basis.”
Dads or close family are the people most likely to ‘see’ PND happening. Here are a few things to look out for in yourself or in your loved one:
- Feeling persistently sad or low
- Taking no pleasure in the things you usually enjoy
- Exhausted, and lacking in motivation
- Not keen to see friends or family
- Irritable and tearful
- Anxiety about things that wouldn’t normally bother you
- Taking no pleasure from being with your baby, or feeling hostile towards him, your partner, or your other children
- Extremely worried about baby’s health, even though he’s fine
- Being fearful that you might harm your baby.
“Depression, postnatal or otherwise, is not your fault. It’s not class related and it’s not a sign that you can’t cope or are a bad mother.” In his work at the Perrymount Clinic, Christian helps countless mothers who suffer from anxiety and depression and his research has led him to some startling findings when it comes to diet and nutrition.
Stress, lack of sleep and, more often than not, a poor diet, can all lead to PND. There are some simple things that can be done to help alleviate symptoms and they’re all about getting back to basics.
Talk about it
PND can make you feel very alone as a new mum. Remember that your partner or loved one may be feeling guilty and defensive about how they see themselves ‘coping’ so reassurance and understanding are important.
Here’s a little top-tip for family and friends
Try not to ask ‘are you ok?’ – a woman’s natural reaction is to say, ‘yes, I’m fine’ because we don’t want to appear weak or unable to cope. That was certainly true for me.
Instead, be brave and say, ‘I love you but I’m not sure that you’re ok, let’s check and maybe get some help.’ Often, just having someone to talk to makes a difference.
For tackling PND, exercise is one of the most important and helpful things you can do. It doesn’t need to be ground-breaking – just walking out in in the fresh air with your baby will get those endorphins running.
“Activities such as baby swimming have multiple benefits for mum and baby as classes are focused around child safety and development. And you can get started straight away, we have babies at our swimming classes from 12 weeks old! An added bonus to group activity is that you’ll be around other new mums so can share experiences and make new friends along the way, all of which helps to combat PND,” explains Tamsin.
Things like vitamin deficiencies and omega-3 healthy fat deficiency are known contributors to depression and have been found to be beneficial when added back into the diet.
A woman’s hormone balance can also affect mood. What’s often not known is that female hormones and vitamin D are made out of good cholesterol. Cholesterol is found in good levels in meats, avocados, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, and wild salmon. Many mums are consuming carbohydrates for quick energy rather than meat and, therefore, may not be providing themselves with the ingredients to get their hormones back in balance. Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard or take much time to prepare! Here are some quick and healthy alternatives to try:
100% rye toast with smashed avocado or smoked wild salmon and cream cheese
Plain yogurt/kefir with berries, nuts, seeds, and cinnamon
Snack on olives or raw nuts
Hard boiled free range eggs.
“It’s possible that by making simple changes to eating habits and getting back to some gentle exercise, a mum can get back on track and start to feel better,” says Christian.
Tamsin adds, “If you think someone you love is suffering from PND, do try to have a talk to them or someone else about it. Depression isn’t a taboo subject and the more we talk about it, the better prepared we will all be to deal with it.”