• Dr Missy Wolfman

Baby Blues or Postnatal Depression?

After the birth of my twin girls I was in the hospital for 6 days. Partly because one of my girls had jaundice, and needed a couple of days phototherapy, and partly because I lost a significant amount of blood during the delivery and required transfusions. It’s very hard to describe what those six days were like. I just remembered that I was on “survival” mode for the first three days, and actually I felt pretty good after my blood transfusion. Suddenly I wasn’t feeling extremely tired and sleepy, and thanks to the fact that I lost 13 kg of babies, blood, placenta and fluid – I felt really light! I remembered, though, when my babies were 3-4 days old, I started crying a lot. I was weepy, emotional and very irritable at my husband. Sleep deprivation, and constantly trying to breastfeed, pumping and bottle feeding my babies reduced me to a blubbering and crying mess. My husband and I had to feed our babies every two hours as they were underweight. Given that changing their diapers, breastfeeding, topping them up with formula, and then burping them took about an hour, meant that we only had about an hour or 1.5 hours of rest before we had to do it all over again. This went on 24/7 when we were in the hospital. Cabin fever also kicked in as I barely left my hospital room, and didn’t go out of the maternity ward at all for my whole hospital stay.

I felt much better when we were discharged from the hospital. Being outside, walking with my babies in the twin pram, along with amazing support from my mum, sister and husband really helped my mental health. Under the guidance of our midwife, we were allowed to have a longer stretch of time when we don’t have to wake up and feed our babies. I had longer and better sleep as a result, and thanks to the shift system that my husband designed I was able to sleep 4-5 hours per night. I was very lucky that I was well supported.

I had the ‘baby blues’ when I was at the hospital. Most mums (about 75%) will have the baby blues in the first week after the baby is born. Feeling of sadness and tearfulness are the common signs of baby blues. The baby blues only last for a few days or a week, while posnatal depression is more severe, last longer an interferes significantly with mum's day to day life.

Here is what you need to know about postnatal depression:

- 14% of women suffered from Postnatal Depression (in the last 2015 New Mother’s Mental Health Survey)

- Mums who identified as Asians and those from low household income were more likely to experience postnatal depression (in the last 2015 New Mother’s Mental Health Survey)

- Symptoms of postnatal depression varies may include:

o Feeling numb and empty

o Feeling sad and tearful a lot of the time

o No longer enjoying the activities that used to make you happy

o Feeling inadequate and feeling that you are unable to cope

o Feeling very anxious or worried for no good reason

o Blaming yourself unnecessarily when things go wrong

o Difficulty sleeping (even when your baby is sleeping)

o Thoughts of harming self or others

- You can do a self-test using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (most commonly used questionnaire) here.

- Postnatal depression is treatable and you need to get the support you need. Sleep, physical exercise, connection, getting the support from family, friend or professionals are common ways mums recover from postnatal depression

- Know that you are not alone and a lot of mums have experienced this and have recovered and grow more resilient. Having postnatal depression does not mean you love your baby less, or that you are a bad mother.

- Find your support group and places where you can feel validated and understood. Check out Perinatal Anxiety Depression Aoteroa, or Mental Health Foundation.

If you think you or someone you know may have postnatal depression, please reach out! Talk to you GP, midwife, plunket nurse, antenatal or postnatal group facilitators, or whoever you trust. I also offer 15 minute zoom ‘Free Wellbeing Check’, and I can assess whether you may be suffering from postnatal depression, and offer you the treatment you need. Book your 15 minute check-up below.

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