According to the NHS, one in ten women suffer from postnatal depression within a year of giving birth. It can persist for many months – even years – and, although less common, it can also affect fathers and partners. It can also affect dramatically how you feel about work and returning to work.
Whilst it’s normal to experience the ‘baby blues’ (feelings of anxiety and tearfulness for a fortnight or so after giving birth) postnatal depression is a serious illness. Symptoms include a loss of interest in the wider world, a lack of energy, difficulty sleeping, difficulty bonding with your baby and, sometimes, frightening thoughts.
If you think you may be experiencing these symptoms, it is important to discuss them with your doctor and your partner or a close family member or friend. If you are adding to the mix concerns over returning to work; how will you adjust to life back in the workplace? How will you feel being apart from your child? It’s important to discuss with your employer too.
Employers are duty bound to support employees who are experiencing mental health challenges – and the realisation in recent years that so many of us experience mental health problems at some stage in our life (one in every four people) has broken down a lot of barriers.
After consulting with your doctor, and agreeing a treatment plan with them, sit down with your line manager to explain what is going on and the feelings you’re experiencing. They should be empathetic and supportive, and discuss ways to help you in the workplace. They should also explain to you your rights in terms of time off when you’re feeling particularly bad – if they don’t, ask them to. In addition, check the staff handbook to see if there’s anything in there relevant to your situation.
But most importantly know that you are not alone. If you would like to talk to someone you don’t know, in confidence, we’re here for you.
For more information on this subject, or anything else to do with HR and employee law, chat with our specialist HR and Employment expert advisors.