Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is a type of depression some women experience after they have had a baby.

It usually develops in the first four to six weeks after childbirth, although in some cases it may not develop for several months.

There are many symptoms of postnatal depression, such as low mood, feeling unable to cope and difficulty sleeping, but many women are not aware they have the condition.

It’s common to experience mood changes, irritability and episodes of tearfulness after birth – the so-called baby blues. These normally clear up within a few weeks. But if a woman experiences persistent symptoms, it could well be the result of postnatal depression.

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What is postnatal depression?

People expect that having a baby is going to be a source of happiness, and of course it is, and should be. But, as a new mother, you may be very far from feeling this straight away, and this can bring with it huge anxiety. You may go through a short period of feeling emotional and tearful, which may be brief and manageable (the ‘baby blues’), or you may develop deeper and longer-term depression (postnatal depression). Very rarely, a new mother may experience an extremely severe form of depression, known as puerperal psychosis.

What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?

The symptoms are similar to those that occur with depression at any other time. They usually include one or more of the following. In postnatal depression, symptoms are usually there on most days, for most of the time, for two weeks or more.

  • Low mood. Tends to be worse first thing in the morning, but not always.
  • Not really enjoying anything. Lack of interest in yourself and your baby.
  • Lack of motivation to do anything.
  • Often feeling tearful.
  • Feeling irritable a lot of the time.
  • Feelings of guilt, rejection, or inadequacy.
  • Poor concentration (like forgetting or losing things) or being unable to make a decision about things.
  • Feeling unable to cope with anything.

Postnatal depression

Talking therapies

Talking to your partner or a friend might help, but it can sometimes be difficult for them to understand what you are going through. Your GP or health visitor is your best first port of call.

Your GP may be able to refer you to a support group, counsellor or psychotherapist. She also may be able to arrange for you to have cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). CBT can teach you every-day coping strategies for tackling PND. Unfortunately, in some areas there are long waiting lists for this. You may want to contact a charity that can put you in touch with a trained volunteer who is used talking to people with PND.