Post natal depression, or PND as it is often referred to, used to be a taboo subject that was very rarely talked about and very rarely acknowledged outside of the medical profession. Women did not like to admit that they were feeling depressed after giving birth because they were afraid that it would result in them being labeled a bad mother or somehow diminish their capacity to look after their little one.
Today, it is still an awkward topic for many women who feel depressed after giving birth but it need not be. If many of the myths surrounding post natal depression were dispelled then those who still consider it to be taboo may actually begin to understand PND and what it does to women if left untreated.
Here are the top 10 myths about post natal depression:
1 – PND is a recent phenomenon
PND is by no means a recent occurrence. In fact, Najman et al state that the likes of Hippocrates, Galen and other early practitioners of medicine actually document it in their works. As such, it is not a modern problem but one that has naturally occurred for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.
2 – PND is not as bad as other forms of depression
PND, like all other forms of depression, has a sliding scale. Some women have mild symptoms that last for a few weeks whereas others have severe postnatal psychosis that can take many years of treatment to get them feeling anywhere near “normal”, and that term should be used loosely. As such, PND is as bad as any other form of depression and it is this particular myth that caused it to be dismissed as nothing for several decades
3 – Only women are affected by PND
This myth is surprisingly not true. Men can also suffer with PND. Although they do not have the same hormonal fluctuations to deal with as women, which will be discussed in point five, they may have the same anxieties and worries about raising a newborn baby. Having a baby is a major life changing event and the stress caused by it can have an impact on fathers too. It is less common but it still occurs.
4 – If you ignore PND, it will eventually go away
This myth is one of the most dangerous regarding postnatal depression because it implies that bottling it all up and ignoring the stress and anxiety you are feeling will help it to dissipate over time without talking to anyone else about it. This is simply not true and is also very risky purely and simply because PND is highly likely to get worse if you fail to recognize and seek treatment for it in a timely manner. It will not eventually go away on its own as a result of the many and varied causes that will remain a part of your life in the meantime so the sooner you seek help the better.
5 – PND is wholly caused by changes in hormone levels
Despite reports and commonly held beliefs to the contrary, there is no proof to suggest that PND is caused by hormone levels fluctuating during the afterbirth rollercoaster. Instead, it is thought that there is a variety of causes from trauma during the birth, financial issues, the changing nature of your relationship with your partner, lack of support, anxiety about the baby, existing mental health issues and isolation amongst other things. As such, all new mothers are susceptible regardless of their hormones and it often develops within the first month after birth.
6 – If you seek help for PND, the authorities will take your baby away from you
This is also a huge and dangerous myth. Authorities look to support mothers and will never take their babies away from them on account of PND. If they believe that the baby is in danger of coming to harm for any reason then they will protect the child above all else but this is incredibly rare (see myth ten). Instead, health and support networks believe it is best to keep the child with the mother for both of their sakes when dealing with PND.
7 – You must take medication to get rid of PND
Again, this is dependent on the individual. Some mothers will not have to take medication to help treat their PND. It may be that a traumatic birth left an individual mentally scarred and counseling will help her to come to terms with it. As such, every mother suffering with PND will be fully assessed before being prescribed a course of treatment that will work for them. You may not have to take medication but if you do then it is in your best interests.
8 – The baby blues and PND are one and the same thing
This is not true. The baby blues is related to hormones and happens when the levels in a new mother’s body drop quickly after birth. They last for a few weeks and resolve when levels stabilize. The baby blues will therefore go away on their own. Postnatal depression, on the other hand, will not go away on its own and is linked to various other factors rather than hormone levels. As such, they are completely separate entities. It is possible for a mother to have baby blues but not PND.
9 – PND is not common or normal
PND is far more common than you may think. Anywhere between 10% and 15% of women suffer from it, which is approximately 1 in 7-10 women. It is also believed that there is a genetic ink as it seems to run in families.
10 – If you have PND then you are likely to harm your baby
This particular myth is the one that really makes experts angry because this is absolutely not the case. A mother suffering from PND is highly unlikely to harm her baby unless she is suffering from delusions, which is very rare. In fact, she is no more likely to harm her child than any other mother despite worrying to the contrary.
There are other myths about PND that must be dispelled but these are the main ones that must be addressed immediately. Although there is better care available, understanding goes a long way to helping provide sufferers with the support they need from friends and family.