What is PNI ?
Postnatal illness (often referred to by the medical profession as postnatal depression / postpartum depression) affects about 10% of mums after the birth of a child. Most mums are tired and emotional for a few days or weeks as they recover from the birth and adjust to the demands of a new baby, this is often called the baby blues. It is more likely to be postnatal illness if these feelings persist or worsen as time goes on.
What Causes PNI ?
There are many possible causes for postnatal illness and postnatal depression. It is unlikely that it is simply one cause but rather a number of different and difficult life experiences. Possible reasons for postnatal illness and postnatal depression are:
- A mum has had previous mental health problems, including depression or she has had depression or anxiety during pregnancy.
- A mum does not have a solid support network of family and friends, so there is a feeling of isolation.
- A mum may have experienced a recent stressful event – e.g. a bereavement, a relationship ending or losing a job.
- Also there may be a physical cause for a depression, such as an under-active thyroid.
However, postnatal illness and postnatal depression can start for no obvious reason, without any of these causes. The most important point is to seek help as soon as possible because postnatal illness is a recognised medical illness and is treatable.
The best way to help yourself is to talk to someone and to get help rather than suffering in silence. Visit your doctor preferably with someone else to support you. Your doctor may suggest anti-depressants to lessen the symptoms until you recover – these are non-addictive. She may also suggest counselling. After you have seen your doctor try to find someone to confide in, so that you do not have to pretend everything is fine. If you find it hard to explain how you feel, it may be useful to talk to a Support Mum from Hertfordshire Postnatal Illness Support. Support Mums have gone through a same or similar experience and are willing to listen and support you during your recovery.
It is important you take care of yourself so try to eat, drink, rest and sleep regularly. Don’t push yourself too hard! Take one day at a time and one step at a time. If you make yourself do too much, it can often make your symptoms worse. Accept all offers of help from family and friends. You do not have to be Super Mum and in fact she does not exist! If you need time out and can afford it, there are childminders who specialise in caring for young babies for short periods. Do not feel guilty for also meeting your needs as well as your baby’s/babies’ needs.
No matter how dreadful it seems at the moment the illness will pass. Don’t expect to be well immediately as it takes time to recover. Finally pamper yourself with your favourite things as a way of telling yourself that you are doing a fantastic job. A Mum is rarely praised and never paid for her job. She does not get lunch breaks or annual bonuses so create these pleasures for yourself!
- Panic Attacks
- Constant tiredness
- Irrational Fears
- Unexplained Physical Pain
- Loss of Appetite
We can help you! If you are continually experiencing any of these symptoms you may have postnatal illness, then your first port of call should be to get in touch with your GP/ Health Visitor and explain how you are feeling. If you need help to explain how you are feeling, and are struggling to put it into words, you may find using this simple symptom tick list helpful.
A mum may experience some or all of the above symptoms and is likely to feel ashamed that she is not coping as well as others seem to be. Very occasionally some women (about one in five hundred) develop puerperal psychosis / postpartum psychosis. This is a severe form of postnatal illness with symptoms including believing strange things (delusions), hearing voices, seeing visions, becoming emotionally changeable and very chaotic. In such cases hospitalisation of mum and baby is usually recommended until the mum recovers.