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Family

We need to talk about post-natal depression

Posed by model.
Several months after the birth of her baby, my friend was admitted to a facility for mothers with post-natal depression.
She stayed for a few weeks, her nearly one-year-old taken from her to help manage her feelings of utter helplessness and exhaustion.
Her treatment made things worse for a while: she was forced to wean her baby suddenly, and hit rock bottom, swallowing dozens of sleeping pills on a break from her rehabilitation.
But how did she get so down?
This was a woman who had never had any history of depression or mental illness, had never been anything but happy. Her baby was like any baby, waking through the night for milk and like most mums, my friend tended to her infant while her husband slept before his next working day.
Post-natal depression is frighteningly common: it's estimated 1800 women in Australia are diagnosed with the condition every single day.
No one knows what causes it, but no doubt the lack of sleep and crazy hormones don't help the situation.
I was reminded of my friend this week after reading this article, written by US model and TV presenter Vanessa Lachey.
She wrote about her shock when, two weeks into parenthood, she found herself unshowered, covered in baby vomit and feeling utterly helpless:
Vanessa says she perked up after a shower, and a drive alone, listening to the radio at full volume.
And seriously, that's what can help. Ten minutes by yourself: with no one latching onto you, no one vomiting your milk back onto you, no one screaming at you.
Pretty much all new mothers (whether it's their first or subsequent children) experience some form of baby blues described by Vanessa.
Becoming a new parent is bloody tough, for both mum and dad. While your lives are rocked by joy and love, they are also blasted with exhaustion and confusion at how to manage this new little person.
The story of my friend has a happy ending. With help, she began managing her endless fatigue, and her baby turned into a toddler who (largely) slept through the night. She spent months speaking with psychologists, and was gradually weaned off her anti-depressants. She and her family are doing just fine.
Still, more attention needs to be given to this issue. While most mums experience the blues, it's important the rest of us do our bit to help our friends' transition to their lives as mothers. They need to be reminded that they are doing okay, that while life will never be the same, it'll be just fine.

Your say: What did you feel like after having a baby? Did you feel down? What's your best tip to a new Mum?

If you feel down, and have recently had a baby, help is available. Contact your local GP, or speak to a trained counsellor through PANDA (Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc), phone 1300 726 306.

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