Between 10 to 15 per cent of Kiwi women will experience depression during pregnancy or postpartum period which makes it important to identify as early as possible. As Kristina Paterson, founder of Mothers Helpers, shares with Treasures – you should seek help at any stage of your pregnancy or after delivery if you’re feeling depressed or anxious. One step you can take is to become part of a supportive community. Mothers Helpers is a nationwide organisation dedicated to supporting mothers who are under stress. We talk to Kristina about how to help mum.
Do mums put added pressure on themselves?
I think there is an extra stigma that mothers have to deal with over and above depression. There is already a stigma attached to anxiety and depression but I think for mums that the pressure that they feel – especially first time mums – is because of unrealistic expectations that mum puts on herself. There is internal pressure that ‘I have to be a good mum and I have ideas and pictures in my head on what a good mum is’. A lot of these ideas and pictures may be from a woman’s own childhood, or media, or friends or facebook. The fact is that when you have anxiety or depression you just can’t live up to that expectation. And when some mums admit that she’s struggling she could then perceive that she is not a good mum. Even though that’s not true, it’s hard for mum to recognize that it’s not true.
How can a mum give herself a break?
The first step to getting a break is to recognize that you need one, to accept that your needs are important too, and to give yourself permission to have a break.
Many women with postnatal depression have anxiety about leaving their baby with someone else to care for them. This is normal. The best way to work through this is to start small with someone you know and trust and gradually build it up from there. The second step is to assess your current resources to see how it can be achieved.
How can someone help another person who may be experiencing AND or PND?
When you have depression or anxiety you feel like you’re in a bit of a fog. It’s very hard to find your way and to be able to see clearly. You’re just ‘in it’ – that’s why you actually need people to reach out to you. The onus shouldn’t be on the person who is depressed to be initiating help.
A lot of women get help because of the support of those around them, such as their partner, friends or family encouraging them to see a doctor. Urge them to get help; even offer to take them, to go with them to the doctor.
I remember when my son was three months old I had a friend that said ‘It sounds like you have postnatal depression’ and I was really offended. I didn’t want that to be true. At the time it felt that it was a criticism. I think friends and family have to think about what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it – such as offering to go with mum to the doctor.
Is the impact of AND or PND on the entire family?
There’s a huge impact to mum and her partner, but also importantly depression impacts her baby, which is why it’s important that she gets help as quickly as possible.
How is it best for people to contact Mothers Helpers?
The best way for people to find us is mothershelpsers.co.nz – there is a family landing page so whether it’s the mum or her friend or family member looking for information they can find us and ways to contact us, including on 0800 002717
Mothers Helpers believes in an holistic approach to health incorporating the physical, psychological, social, mental, cultural and spiritual aspects of a person.
Every woman who gives birth is vulnerable, although some things increase the chances of developing postnatal depression.
Risk factors before pregnancy and birth:
- Past history of depression or other mental health problem.
- Family history of postpartum depression.
- Not having much social support or problems with partner.
- Birth complications, such as caesarean delivery.
- Baby has health problems or is ill.
- A fussy baby who has problems feeding, has reflux or colic
Look for these symptoms during pregnancy or following birth to identify AND or PND.
- Feeling empty, sad, alone, tearful or depressed
- Losing interest and attention
- Feeling irritable or angry at any given time, or feeling extremely moody.
- Having a hard time concentrating, not sleeping
- Feeling no bond with baby
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Having thoughts of harming yourself or baby
- Experiencing a lack of appetite
- Feeling hopeless and guilty
- Feeling like you’re in a fog or it is difficult to think clearly
- Worrying constantly, and fear
- Experiencing anxiety or panic attacks
Ask for help if you think you might be experiencing antenatal or post-natal depression by contacting:
- Your local GP
- Mother’s Helpers
Provide support to mothers experiencing ante-natal and postnatal anxiety and depression, also offer PND Recovery courses and follow-up counselling in 12 areas across the North Island as well as online. These are delivered by qualified counsellors, social workers, life coaches or mental health nurses.
Phone: 0800 002 717 or 022 093 1822
- 1737, Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
- Lifeline – 0800 543 354 or (09) 5222 999 within Auckland
- Depression Helpline 0800 111 757
- Healthline: 0800 611 116 (available 24 hours, 7 days a week and free to callers throughout New Zealand, including from a mobile phone).
PlunketLine is a toll-free parent helpline and advice service available to all families, whānau and caregivers 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 0800 933 922 for parenting help. Calls are free from cell phones.
- Samaritans – 0800 726 666
- Anxiety New Zealand – 0800 ANXIETY (0800 269 4389)
- If it is an emergency or you, or someone you know, is at risk call 111.