Half of all mothers feel low for a few days soon after having a baby, but one in every ten will experience postnatal depression (PND). Here’s what the baby blues are all about from The Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK
Postnatal depression (PND) isn’t just about feeling low, you find you:
- have no appetite or over-eat for comfort
- can’t cope with your new life with your baby
- are anxious
- feel guilty
- are afraid to be alone with your baby
- think life just isn’t worth living
PND can last weeks or months and can start anywhere between one to six months after the birth.
The cause of PND is not yet known, but it’s more likely if:
- you have suffered from depression before
- you don’t have a supportive partner or friends or family
- your baby is unwell
- you lost your own mother when you were a child
- you have had several stresses in a short time
If you feel down, tell someone.
Talking helps – this could be a friend, a relative, or a professional.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy helps you overcome depression by exploring how you think about yourself. Other types of therapy can help you understand your depression in terms of what has happened to you in the past.
Antidepressants may help if your depression is severe or not improving. They take a few weeks to start working and should be taken for four to six months. Side effects can include:
- Dry mouth
It is possible to breastfeed while taking some antidepressants. Some people get withdrawal symptoms when they stop, so it’s best to reduce slowly.
Talking treatments and antidepressants are equally effective, but antidepressants are more likely to help if the depression is severe or has gone on for a long time. You will probably get better without any treatment after a period of months. Regular exercise can help. Your depression may affect your relationship with your baby and partner. So the shorter it lasts, the better.
Not enough is yet known about PND to prevent it happening in the first place, but the following may help:
- Try to be ‘superwoman’ - make sure you don’t over-tire yourself.
- Move house (if possible) when pregnant or until your baby is six months old.
- Blame yourself - life is tough at this time.
- Be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
- Rest as much as you can.
- Make sure you eat properly.
- Find time to have fun with your partner.
- Let yourself and your partner be intimate if you can.
- Make friends with other couples in a similar situation.
- Find someone to talk to
- Go to ante-natal classes – and take your partner.
- Keep in touch with your GP and health visitor, particularly if you’ve had PND before.
Your partner, friends or family can:
- Take the time to listen.
- Try not to be shocked or disappointed by the diagnosis – the outlook is good.
- Give practical help like shopping, feeding, changing the baby, or housework.
Even if you have been depressed for a while, support, counselling and medication can all help; it’s never too late.
(Courtesy BBC Health)