Returning to work after having a baby can be a stressful experience in its own right. How will you adjust to life back in the workplace? How will you feel being apart from your child? Yet for many mothers, there can be a much worse factor to cope with: postnatal depression.
According to the NHS, one in ten women suffer from postnatal depression within a year of giving birth and it can persist for many months and even years. It can also affect fathers and partners, although this is less common.
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 persistent feeling of sadness and low mood. 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 can be difficult to discuss them. But as well as needing to have a conversation with your doctor and your partner (or a close family member or friend), 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 a 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.
And if you would like to talk to someone you don’t know, in confidence, we’re here for you.
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