What is postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of depression that can affect a woman after she has a baby. It can start anytime within the first year after childbirth, and affects up to 15% of new mothers. It is more than just the “baby blues” – a short period of feeling down that affects most new mums.
Symptoms of postnatal depression
Symptoms of postnatal depression can vary and include:
- feeling overwhelmed, sad or low for a long time
- feeling anxious or panicky
- feeling hopeless, guilty or ashamed
- lack of motivation and loss of interest in things that used to be enjoyable
- sleeping difficulties, such as insomnia or sleeping too much
- irritability or outbursts of anger
- lack of appetite or comfort eating
- difficulty bonding with the baby
- withdrawal from friends and family
Causes of postnatal depression
The exact cause of postnatal depression is unknown, but it is likely to be a combination of physical, psychological and social factors.
- Hormonal changes – the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the body can drop dramatically after giving birth, which can affect mood.
- Fatigue – the physical demands of looking after a newborn can be exhausting.
- Stress – giving birth, adjusting to motherhood and having to cope with the demands of a new baby can be stressful.
- Anxiety – worrying about being a good mother, or feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of looking after a baby can lead to anxiety.
- Negative thoughts – feeling inadequate, guilty or that you are not doing a good job can lead to negative thoughts.
- Lack of support – not having enough support from family and friends can make it harder to cope.
- Relationship problems – relationship problems with your partner can make it harder to cope with the demands of a new baby.
Treatment for postnatal depression
Postnatal depression can be treated with a combination of self-help strategies, talking therapies and, in some cases, medication.
- Get enough rest – try to get as much rest as possible, even if it means getting help with childcare.
- Eat healthily – a healthy diet can help you feel better in yourself.
- Exercise – regular exercise can help to boost your mood and energy levels.
- Talk to someone – talking to friends, family or a healthcare professional can help.
- Set realistic goals – try not to put too much pressure on yourself and set realistic goals.
Talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), can be helpful in treating postnatal depression. CBT can help you to identify and change any negative thought patterns and behaviours that may be contributing to your depression.
In some cases, medication may be recommended. This will usually be a type of antidepressant, such as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI).
Postnatal depression is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on the wellbeing of both mother and baby. If you think you may be suffering from postnatal depression, it is important to seek help from your GP or healthcare professional. With the right treatment and support, it is possible to recover from postnatal depression.