A new report commissioned by beyondblue has found that, if left untreated, there is a costly and long-lasting impact of perinatal depression on the community to the tune of nearly $500 million.
Depression during pregnancy affects one in 10 Australian women, with this figure jumping to nearly 16 per cent for those developing postnatal depression (PND).
This year’s Postnatal Depression Week aims to raise awareness around the far-reaching effects of perinatal depression and anxiety – defined as that which is experienced by a parent between the child’s conception and its first birthday.
Launched this week by Minister for Mental Health Mark Butler, the National Perinatal Depression Initiative report reveals perinatal depression and anxiety (stemming from the births of children born in 2012) could cost Australia $496 million by the time these children turn two.
The findings tally the hidden costs to society of the disorder, including long-term loss of family income and ongoing health issues for mother and child.
Economics aside, PND is a debilitating condition that affects people from all walks of life, even celebrities who may seem to lead a charmed existence.
Actors Gwyneth Paltrow, Brooke Shields and Courtney Cox, singer Alanis Morissette and Elle Macpherson are just some of the celebrities who have gone public about their experiences.
“I didn’t know I had it until it was over,” admitted Paltrow, who was diagnosed with PND after the birth of her son Moses in 2006. “I just didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt really disconnected. I felt really down.”
beyondblue CEO Kate Carnell says, “It’s important that women, their partners and families know the symptoms of perinatal depression and anxiety, and recognise that it is not a normal part of having a baby. It’s different from the ‘baby blues’ and, usually, it won’t go away without treatment.”
Related article: PND or the baby blues? Patricia’s story…
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
In Australia, around 47,000 new mums are diagnosed with PND every year. According to the Black Dog Institute, the disorder may arise because of the hormonal changes following childbirth. The stress of looking after a young baby and having your sleep disrupted may also help to bring on the illness in susceptible people.
One of the trickiest things about it is that it can be difficult to detect. This is largely due to the fact that most new mothers will experience some symptoms from time to time – after all, caring for a newborn is a difficult gig and absolutely everyone struggles with it.
But new mothers who experience a range of symptoms for a period of two weeks or more may well be suffering PND. If that's the case it's time to check in with your GP or health practitioner and discuss the issue.
Ask yourself the following questions and if you still think you may have a problem, speak to your GP or a nurse at your baby health clinic.
*Am I able to see the funny side of things?
*Can I look forward to the future?
*Am I blaming myself unnecessarily when things go wrong?
*Do I feel anxious or worried for no good reason?
*Do I feel scared or panicky for no good reason?
*Am I feeling overwhelmed?
*Am I feeling so miserable that my sleep is affected?
*Do I feel so down I cry?
*Has the idea of harming myself crossed my mind?
Postnatal depression is
treatable. Even if everything seems overwhelming right now, try just one or two of the following:
1. Talk to somebody about how you're feeling. Try your GP or health practitioner, counsellor, family member or even a trusted friend.
2. Remind yourself that depression is not a weakness, it's a disorder that causes chemical imbalances in your body and it’s far more common than you might think.
3. Sleep as much as you can and take up any offers of help. There's no need to go it alone.
4. Exercise or just do anything that moves your body or gets you outside.
5. Socialise, engage with your friends and family or try to connect with other mothers, even if it’s not an official mothers’ group just someone you compare notes with in the park.
5. Consider therapy
6. Ask your doctor if antidepressant medication might help. There are a number of classes of antidepressants that are safe to take while pregnant or breastfeeding.
As part of Postnatal Depression Week, beyondblue has just launched two new free booklets to help pregnant women, mothers and their families manage and hopefully prevent perinatal depression and anxiety. Order yours at beyondblue.org
or by calling the beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636.
Have you had any experiences with PND or anxiety? Share your comments below.