Postnatal depression is different from the type of ‘depression’ you hear about all the time. This one is not talked about enough, even though it is serious. It’s a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby.
It’s a common problem, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. It can also affect the partner. It’s very important to seek help as soon as you can if you think you may have symptoms of depression, as this could lead for your symptoms to get worse and this can have a significant impact on you, your baby and your family.
Symptoms of postnatal depression
It is a common feeling to feel a little down, tearful or anxious within the first week of giving birth. This is often called the ”baby blues” and is so common that it’s considered normal. This doesn’t last for more than two weeks after giving birth.
If you feel like your symptoms are worsening, they could perhaps last a lot longer then you anticipated, then you could have postnatal depression. It can start anytime in the first year after giving birth.
It can give you a persistent feeling of sadness and a low mood, lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world. A lack of energy were you will feel tired constantly, trouble sleeping at night and feeling extremely sleepy during the day, difficulty bonding with your baby. It can often make you withdraw from contact with other people, give you troubles with concentration and frightening thoughts which could mean harming the baby.
What causes postnatal depression?
It could be:
- A history of mental health problems, particularly depression in early life
- Having no close family or friends to support you
- A history of mental health problems during pregnancy
- A poor relationship with your partner
- Recent stressful life events, such as bereavement
- Experiencing the ”baby blues” for longer than a week
It could even be that you don’t have any of these symptoms, having a baby is a life-changing event that can in many cases trigger depression. It can take a long time, to adapt to becoming a new parent, it can be stressful and exhausting.
Common myths said about postnatal depression
- Postnatal depression is less severe than other types of depression: This is not true at all, like any type of depression they’re all serious, this type is just as serious as the other types of depression.
- Postnatal depression only affects women: Research has found that up to 1 in 10 new fathers become depressed after having a baby.
- Postnatal depression will soon pass: Unlike ”baby blues”, postnatal depression can persist for months and months if left untreated. It can become a long-term problem if it sticks around for a long time.
Getting help for postnatal depression
Speak to your GP or health visitor as soon as possible, if you feel like you may be depressed. A lot of the time health visitors have been trained to recognise postnatal depression and have the techniques that can help. Always encourage your partner to seek help if you think they could be struggling with it. Don’t just struggle alone and hope that the problem goes away, like any mental health issue it needs to be dealt with.
Just remember a range of help and support is available, including therapies. It’s not your fault you’re depressed, it can happen to absolutely anyone. Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent and that you’re going mad. Your baby will not get taken away from you, babies are only taken into care in very exceptional circumstances.
Treatment for postnatal depression
It can be lonely, distressing and frightening, but the support and treatment that is available can be effective.
- Self-help: Things you can try for yourself, talk to your family or friends about the way you’re feeling and ask them how they can help you, make time for yourself to do things you enjoy, resting whenever you get a chance, getting as much sleep as you can. Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.
- Psychological therapies: Your GP may be able to recommend a self-help course, or may refer you for a course of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
- Antidepressants: These may be recommended if your depression is more severe or other treatments haven’t helped; your doctor can prescribe medication that’s safe to take while breastfeeding.
- Interpersonal therapy: This involves talking to a therapist about the problems you’re experiencing. It aims to identify them and what problems you could be having in your relationships with your family, friends or partners and how they might relate to you feeling depressed. Treatment can normally last up to 3 to 4 months.
If your postnatal depression is more severe and none of the treatments above help, you’ll most likely be referred to a specialist mental health team. They’ll be able to give you additional treatments, such as:
- More intensive CBT
- Other psychological treatments, such as psychotherapy
- Therapies such as baby massage to help you bond better with your baby
- Different medications
If the thoughts that occur in your head are so severe that you’re at risk of harming yourself or others, you may be admitted to a hospital or a mental health clinic. The baby can either be looked at by your partner or family until you’re well enough, or you can stay in a specialised ‘mother and baby’ mental health unit.
Call Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support on 0843 28 98 401.
Call National Childbirth Trust on 0300 330 0700.