A new key to solving postnatal depression

It’s a debilitating condition but as Zoe Bingley-Pullin finds out, there is help available to recover from postnatal depression – and singing may play a part.

You’re holding your baby in your arms and it’s supposed to be the happiest time of your life – so why do you feel such a blanket of anxiety and depression?

What is postnatal depression?

Zoe, who suffered postnatal depression, says the crippling condition affects one in seven mums and one in 10 dads in Australia, and develops one month to a year after birth.

More than just a low mood or the baby blues, postnatal depression is a serious illness affecting physical and mental health.

In many cases during the perinatal period (pregnancy and the year following birth) it isn’t recognised and may get worse.

Recognising the signs of PND

PANDA Foundation runs Australia’s only national helpline for people and families suffering from the effects of perinatal anxiety and depression.

Chief executive Terry Smith says being aware that depression can occur from the start of pregnancy, and knowing the signs to look for, is vital.

“It might be persistent crying, it might be just withdrawing from family and friends, it might be that you really don’t feel yourself and can’t be yourself, that you might not want to be with your baby,” Terry says.

“At its most severe, it may mean you have thoughts about hurting yourself, hurting your baby and that your family is going to be better off without you.”

Finding hope

Zoe says whether you’re feeling sad, or you’re feeling depressed or anxiety, help is available.

“That help can come in different forms – in psychology, in counselling or simply a friend,” Zoe says.

“Remember it’s normal, we’re all in this together and the more we can have open conversations, the easier it is for everyone in the family.”

Singing as therapy

Zoe meets PANDA volunteer and mum-of-four Melissa Bishop, who suffered severe postnatal depression after each of her pregnancies.

They visit the Brunswick Women’s Choir to test new research that suggests singing is another excellent therapy option.

The study, in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that mums who took part in group singing sessions, or sang lullabies to their babies, were able to overcome postnatal depression symptoms more quickly than those who were not.

The study’s principal author, Dr Rosie Perkins, said: “Our research indicates that for some women something as accessible as singing with their baby could help speed up recovery at one of the most vulnerable time of their lives.”

Read more about the PANDA Foundation and Brunswick Women’s Choir and catch up on the full episode of The House of Wellness TV show.