General News — 03 February 2014
When baby brings the blues

‘It is believed that at the baby’s birth a ‘guilt chip’ is inserted into  every mother.” This is a quote from a new book about dealing with the depression  that can affect one in 10  women either during pregnancy or after the birth of  their child. It’s  a  line that’s funny enough to raise a smile – unless you’re  a woman with  postnatal depression (PND) who’s afraid her depressive symptoms  have harmed her baby.

Mothers can feel guilt for lots of reasons but for a woman with PND it often  comes from a fear that her depression will break the mother-baby bond, causing  psychological damage to her child as a result, says psychiatrist Gordon Parker,  Scientia Professor of Psychiatry at the University of NSW. He is one of the  authors of Overcoming the Baby Blues, a new book about coping with  depression in pregnancy or after giving birth.

This guilt, along with the stigma that still clings to mental illness,   can  discourage many women from getting the help they need to get well, he says.

“But even if a mother has depression for the first few weeks or months after  the birth, once she’s recovered the bond can be restored,” he says. “What stops  some women from getting treatment is the fear of having the baby taken away if  there are doubts about her ability to cope.  Yet it’s only in extreme cases of  mental illness that government services are likely to be called in and while  this intervention is rare, it’s generally supportive.”