Border Mail Column – Wednesday 21 November 2012
Yesterday I was celebrating – remembering the birth day of my older son and all of the amazing emotions that came with that moment of holding him in my arms.
I had an easy pregnancy including a few months at home that helped me to adjust from my workplace of a television newsroom full of deadlines, to a life dictated by the rhythms of my new son.
It was easy to spend hours just looking into his bassinette and be overwhelmed with a feeling that all was right in the world.
Because I knew very few people in the town we lived in and had no family living nearby I had joined the Nursing Mothers’ Association, now the Australian Breastfeeding Association, four months before my baby was due.
It was my connection to the world of mothers and babies and gave me not only the support of first time mums, but of women who had more than one child and could help me navigate this wondrous but incredibly scary new world.
If this sounds idyllic – it was for me, but I was also aware that women for whom the world of motherhood was a dark place.
We knew about postnatal depression, but it wasn’t given the publicity it has today in mainstream media. If you wanted to find out anything about issues to do with mothering you read about it in parenting or women’s magazines.
Any increase in the rate of the condition in Australia is hard to quantify because it may be that it is now more recognised, however research by Beyond Blue released during the current Post Natal Depression Week puts the cost to the community of perinatal depression and anxiety at $500 million.
Beyondblue defines perinatal depression and anxiety as any depression or anxiety experienced by a parent, not just the mother, between the child’s conception to its first birthday.
It believes one in seven new mothers is affected by postnatal depression, but one of the greatest challenges is for new mums to let someone know that they aren’t coping at a time that is supposed to be one of the most joyous and fulfilling in their lives.
In my contact with mums and mums-to-be I often spoke about that four letter word – cope – but coping at a time when so much information is available,and not all of it helpful, must be increasingly difficult.
Just a few days ago, a woman who is a contributor to online and other publications aimed at mums was approached to write an article about how women could get their ‘hot’ bodies back after having a baby.
Her disbelief and that of other Tweeps was palpable: it is this type of article that puts added pressure on new mums at a time when they need support, and to be realistic when it comes to their expectations of themselves in their new role.
One of the beyondblue initiatives is the ‘Just Speak Up’ campaign aimed at changing perceptions of postnatal depression by encouraging people who have been affected by it to tell their stories and reduce the stigma that still surrounds the condition.
But it’s not only these women who need to be heard.
As a community we need to speak up and support mothers in all their iterations – at home or in the paid workforce – and play our part in working to reduce the numbers of women affected by perinatal depression and anxiety.
Research shows a five per cent decrease represents a saving of $136 million to the economy, but surely the human savings should be incentive enough.
More information about Postnatal Depression Awareness Week, Perinatal depression and anxiety is available at the beyondblue.org.au website with specific information about the beyond babyblues and the Just Speak Up Campaign here.
Australian Breastfeeding Association