Post Natal Depression
Pregnancy and childbirth are major changes in the life of a woman, and also her wider family. It’s normal to people to find such change challenging. And, for at least 1 in 10 women (and also some fathers and partners), one of the changes experienced after the birth of a baby can be the onset of depression. The onset of depression that occurs at any time within the first year after birth is called Post Natal Depression (PND). Whilst distressing, PND is treatable, and it is important to access support and help promptly by speaking to a Health Visitors and/or GP. They will want to listen to your experience and how you feel. They will understand that depression is an illness like any other and being depressed does not mean you’re a bad parent. Both Health Visitors and GPs can speak with you about strategies to support you in making a recovery.
Symptoms of postnatal depression include:
- a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
- lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- difficulty bonding with your baby
- withdrawing from contact with other people
- problems concentrating and making decisions
- frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting yourself or your baby.
Some women may not recognise that they are experiencing depression. They might feel that it is the “baby blues”. Whilst it is the case that many, many women feel tearful, down and anxious in the first week after giving birth, such symptoms usually last no longer than two weeks after birth. When such symptoms continue beyond two weeks, or begin (sometimes gradually) at a later date, then this may be PND. It’s also important to recognise there are other Mental Health conditions which can impact women and their partners. These include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which can occur after a difficult and traumatic birth experience, and also Post-Partum Psychosis. Post-Partum, Psychosis is a medical emergency, with symptoms including hallucination, experiencing manic mood and/or low mood, confusion and restlessness. If you are concerned about your own mental health, or that of someone else after the birth of a baby, it is important to speak to a Health Visitor or GP. That can feel daunting, and many mothers report feeling cautious or worried about accessing help because they feel they will be judged. It can help to have a trusted friend or partner support you when you first speak to a GP or Health Visitor.
Whilst PND can be distressing, it is treatable. The three main types of treatment available are self-help strategies, talking therapies and/or medication. Self-help includes steps and measures you can take yourself such as exercising regularly, connecting with friends and family to speak about how you feel, accepting offers of practical help and making time for relaxation and time for you. Talking therapies involve speaking with a trained therapist about your experience. This might include a focus on your thought patterns about yourself and your situation. It may also include speaking about your relationships with others in your life and your past experiences. A therapist will want to establish a supportive relationship and give you time and space. And a GP may also suggest medication, which can be taken in conjunction with therapy and self-help strategies.