Postnatal depression

Having a baby is usually a wonderful and very positive experience. But it can also be a huge challenge as your life is turned upside down. It’s natural to feel emotional and vulnerable as a new parent. It can be overwhelming and often puts pressure on relationships and finances. Be prepared for an emotional few days as you settle into motherhood and find out what to do if things don’t start to feel better.

What is postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of depression that affects about 10-15% of women after they’ve had a baby. It tends to develop within the first 4-6 weeks following birth but it can take a few months for women to notice the symptoms.

What’s the difference between PND and the baby blues?

The baby blues are very common and tend to set in 3-5 days after birth as your body’s hormone levels readjust. It’s quite normal to feel teary, lonely and lack confidence in yourself and your parenting abilities. Talking about your feelings with your midwife and asking for help from friends and family will get you through and you should be feeling much better within a week.

What are the symptoms of PND?

The most common signs of PND are low mood, anxiety, extreme tiredness but an inability to rest or sleep, and lack of motivation. Some new mums with PND don’t actually feel depressed but suffer severe anxiety, which can cause panic attacks.

Where can I find help?

If you feel this way most of the time and the feelings don’t go away, talk to your health visitor or GP who will be able to tell you whether you have PND and help you find the best course of treatment.

How is PND treated?

Often just being diagnosed, talking to your doctor and having your feelings acknowledged can be enough to help treat mild PND. Otherwise, your GP may recommend a course of counseling or psychotherapy. Anti-depressants are sometimes also prescribed.

How can I help myself?

  • Get as much rest as possible as tiredness can make you feel worse. Put yourself before jobs like housework.
  • Confide in someone you feel comfortable with, whether it’s your partner, mum, health visitor or a friend. Keeping a diary may help as well.
  • Try to eat small, regular meals to keep your energy up.
  • Do a little exercise if you can. This releases happy hormones and getting out in the fresh air is a proven mood booster.
  • Don’t force yourself to do anything you really don’t want to do, such as visiting family or going out socially.
  • Accept help when it’s offered, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Further support and information

Association for Postnatal Illness Tel: 0207 386 0868

Provide support through leaflets and a telephone and postal helpline so you can speak to healthcare professionals or volunteers who have suffered PND themselves.

PNI Org UK A charity set up to support sufferers with online information and chat rooms where you can contact other mums who have, or have had, PND.

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