Many mothers experience changes in their mood after having a baby. For some this will be the adjustment to the fact that they have just given birth. For others it may indicate that they are suffering from post-natal illness. At least 50% of all new mothers experience some form of baby blues and 10-15% of all women develop some form of postnatal depression lasting more than 2 weeks. More than half of these develop more serious depression that requires treatment.
The term post-natal illness is used to describe a range of different conditions from which women may suffer after child birth. The most common is the baby blues and is a short period of mild depression. If the illness is more prolonged and more severe, then it is called Postnatal Depression (PND). PND can occur at any time within the first postnatal year.
Some women are more vulnerable to developing PND and the following things make PND more likely:
Previous or family history of depression
Lack of social support
Nobody to confide in
Major life events in the 12 months before the birth i.e. bereavement Moving house
Traumatic birth experience
Most serious depressions are apparent in the first month after childbirth but they can arise later. Without the right treatment, postnatal depression can last months. Treatment of postnatal depression first needs the mother to accept she needs help. Antidepressant medication is very often used to treat postnatal depression and is generally very effective. However, other forms of treatment are available and are often combined with medication.
There are many varied symptoms of PND. The following list is not exhaustive but includes the most common symptoms.
Panic attacks commonly occurring in stressful situations and especially if the baby starts to cry.
Tension and Irritability.
Depression: negative thoughts, paralysing despair, feeling low, sad, numb.
Exhaustion: constantly feeling tired and drained of energy; unable to cope with chores.
Lack of concentration and inability to make decisions.
Rejection of partner or baby: the lack of feeling towards the baby or partner can cause intense distress.
Inappropriate and/or obsessional thoughts.
Loss of libido.
Treatments for PND most commonly include antidepressants and psychotherapy or counselling. It is important that mothers suffering from PND receive support from partners and family members and also seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity.