The Baby Blues and Postnatal Depression
The week after your baby is born (usually on day three) you may feel a little down, upset and irritable –this is known as the baby blues. The baby blues are extremely common, with 8 out of 10 mums experiencing some change in their mood the week after giving birth. If you think about what your body has just been through in labour, not to mention the past 9 months, then you understand that your body now needs to get back to how it was pre-pregnancy, not just physically but mentally too. The pregnancy hormones begin leaving your body when your breastmilk starts to come through, which is when you may feel the changes in your mood. They shouldn’t affect you for very long and usually pass within a couple of weeks.
If you think your partner, relative or friend is experiencing the baby blues then here’s how you can help:
- Reassure her that she is doing a great job
- Help around the house by putting some washing on, cooking some meals etc.
- Give her a cuddle if you think she needs one
- Let her cry and listen to her
If your mood hasn’t lifted after a month or so of giving birth you should see your doctor or speak to your Health Visitor as you may have Postnatal Depression (PND). PND is a form of depression that can develop within the first 6 weeks of giving birth, but many women don’t realise they have it and it can therefore go untreated even though they don’t feel right in themselves. Postnatal depression is more common than most people think and effects approximately one in 10 people (this figure is higher in teenage mums). Many mums that have PND don’t admit it as they see it as a weakness and think that it makes them a bad mother. The symptoms of PND can vary but are mostly linked to anxiety, and the feeling that they can’t cope with the baby and life in general.
Below is a list of the main symptoms of Postnatal Depression:
- Constant feeling of sadness
- Lack of energy and extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- Despondent to the world around you and lack of enjoyment towards anything
Other symptoms may include:
- Difficulty in sleeping, even when the baby is asleep
- Aches and pains
- Unable to stop crying
- Sense of feeling guilty and blaming yourself
- Lack of concentration and difficulty in making decisions
- Memory loss
- Panic attacks
- Low self confidence
- Anxious and agitated
- Difficulties bonding with the baby
- Feeling that you can’t cope
- Thoughts about suicide or self-harm
- Frightening thoughts about harming the baby
Postnatal depression can be debilitating and can affect your day to day life, so the earlier you’re diagnosed the easier it will be to treat. The extent of the depression determines the treatment that will be offered, from; self-help advice, talking therapies such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to antidepressant medication. So if you think you, your partner or a friend is suffering from postnatal depression try and talk/get them to talk to someone about it. Visit your GP or talk to someone close about your mental health that will understand how you’re feeling, PND is a temporary illness but it still needs treating as it’s not something that you will just snap out of. Always remember no-one will judge you for having this illness – it’s more common than you think.