The Myths of Postnatal Depression

Motherhood is surrounded by myths. There are myths about what it takes to be a good mother, about how to ensure your child thrives, about what material things you need, and about how a good mother should think, feel and act so that your child is successful and happy.

So in the vulnerable period of the weeks and months after your baby is born it can feel like whatever you do is wrong or ‘not good enough’. The ‘I should be’ or ‘I shouldn’t be’ tendency is enormous because the world seems to be implying that we ought to be doing more.

The myths surrounding postnatal depression are very damaging. They cause women to feel like bad mothers and to think that something is wrong with them. This can stop them acknowledging that they are having a hard time and instead isolate them in their sadness. The longer you suffer, the worse your depression is likely to become and the less likely you are to enjoy motherhood and bond with your child.

Here are some of the myths of postnatal depression:

Feeling bad is a normal part of being a new mother. It is “just hormonal, and you’re supposed to feel exhausted, depressed and tormented”.
We all expect Motherhood to be a challenge, complete with lack of sleep, fatigue, “baby brain”, and, yes, discouraging thoughts about this new role. It can be difficult to distinguish the symptoms of depression because many of them mimic what every new mum will experience. However, being tired, occasionally overwhelmed, daunted, and even exasperated are not the same as being depressed. Having a baby should not leave you feeling that you cannot settle down and turn your worried mind off. It should not leave you feeling full of regret and remorse for weeks and months on end. It should not leave you feeling miserable or consistently anxious and unsettled.

If I tell anyone how I’m feeling, they will take my baby away.
When women are suffering from postnatal depression and have intrusive, unwanted thoughts about harming their babies or surprisingly negative thoughts towards the baby they longed for, it is extremely frightening. But babies are not taken away simply because the mothers have depression – it is only if a baby is at risk of harm or neglect. Reaching out for help shows tremendous strength, it shows you have insight into your situation and are trying to get better. It does not mean you are an unsafe mother.

I should just pull myself together.
When this message is received from the ones we love, it can make someone feel even more of a failure and incompetent as a mother. Postnatal depression is a real illness that requires real treatments and time to heal. The reality is that depression is a biological illness that has real and demonstrable brain and body changes. It does not reflect a weak character or flawed personality. Depression is not “an attitude problem”.

If I feel this badly, then I am not meant to be a mother and I am a bad mother.
Expectations of motherhood need to be managed. If you imagine loving every minute of being a parent, what happens when the reality doesn’t live up to the fantasy? At baby and toddler groups, it can feel very lonely if it seems like other mothers are blissful in their new roles. Shame can then prevent you from telling anyone how you feel. Being a parent is a hard job! Don’t jump to the conclusion that you should not be a mother if you haven’t immediately adapted to the job. With support you can get to the point where you don’t even think about whether or not you should be a mother: you just are one.

You have got nothing to be depressed about…parenting is a wonderful time.
Parenting is hard and the adjustment to parenthood can feel like a roller coaster of emotions. Don’t feel ashamed of reaching out for help.

Women are only at risk after the baby is born.
Generally, depressive illness is often regarded as a postnatal disorder. However, it is as common in pregnant women. Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have depressive feelings while you are still pregnant.

Men don’t suffer postnatal depression.
Depression and anxiety in the post natal period in men has been ignored for too long. Whilst they may not be subject to hormonal changes, they are subject to the challenges of the adjustment to parenthood

If you are worried that you may be experiencing postnatal depression at any time, don’t hesitate to speak to your Dr, health visitor or midwife.

The charity MIND also has some great information and sources of help on their website.
Postpartum psychosis | Mind

*Article taken from ‘Post Natal Mental Health & Early Parenting Relationships’, Sharon Mustard, 2016.

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