Postnatal depression

PND is a depressive illness which affects 10-15 women in every 100.Unlike the Baby Blues, PND may not start immediately after birth, you may not have any symptoms until after you have been discharged from your midwife, which can be several weeks after the birth. The symptoms are similar to the Blues but for PND to be confirmed the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.  However, it is possible to develop symptopms during pregnancy which continue after the birth.

Can’t stop crying

You may feel upset much of the time or keep bursting into tears spontaneously for no apparent reason. Throughout the day and night, you may burst into tears for no apparent reason. Don’t worry, this is a classic symptom and usually the one that alerts people that there is a problem.

Feelings of hopelessness

You may feel inadequate as a new mother and not sure if you are able to care for your baby properly. You will see every little task as a mountain to climb and won’t be able to see any point in anything.

Anxiety and Panic Attacks

Most new mothers worry about their baby’s health but Postnatal Depression sufferers worry that their baby is very ill, not putting on enough weight or won’t settle. You may worry that you might harm your baby, that you have a physical illness or that your Postnatal Depression will never get better. Panic attacks can consist of a racing pulse, thumping heart, breathlessness, sweating, feeling faint or fearing that you may have a heart attack or collapse.

Feeling alone and isolated

You may feel as though you are alone with no-one to talk to, with no-one knowing exactly how you are feeling or what you are going through. You may sit in a room surrounded by lots of people and feel like the only one there.

Can’t see a way forward

You may feel as though there is no point in anything and cannot see beyond the way you are feeling now. Some sufferers have thoughts of suicide or a strong urge to harm themselves or their baby.

Feeling trapped

You may feel as though you cannot escape these feelings and cannot enjoy life or be interested in anything, including your baby. You may feel worse in your own home and at particular times of the day, usually early evening.

Sleeping problems

All new mothers get tired. Depression can make you feel utterly exhausted and lacking in energy. Even though you are tired, you cannot fall asleep. You may lie awake worrying about things. You wake during the night even when your baby is asleep. You may wake very early, before your baby wakes up. Remember, everything seems much worse when you are tired.

Changes in appetite / Weight loss

You may lose your appetite or forget to eat. Some women eat for comfort and then feel bad about gaining weight.

No motivation

You may not have the inclination to do anything that you were able to do easily previously. You may avoid other people and not want to see friends and family. You might find it hard to go to postnatal support groups. Getting yourself dressed and washing and feeding yourself can all seem like too much effort.

Guilt

Depression changes your thinking and you may have negative and guilty thoughts that you are not a good mother or that your baby or partner don’t love you. You may feel guilty for feeling depressed or that it is your fault and blame yourself unnecessarily when things go wrong.

Loss of enjoyment

You may not be able to focus on any one thing or enjoy anything that you were previously able to before you had your baby. Going shopping or even reading a book may seem extremely difficult. Postnatal depression can also take away any form of sexual desire.

Other physical symptoms and pains

You may feel physical symptoms of tension, such as headaches and stomach pains.

There are different reasons why you may be depressed, with some reasons more obvious than others. Perhaps the pregnancy and birth were distressing or you may have suffered mental health problems in the past. You may not have support from family or friends or you may have recently experienced a stressful event, perhaps a death or relationship breakup.

PND can also begin without a reason, without any of the causes mentioned above. On the other hand, having these problems does not mean that you will definitely suffer from PND.

If you feel you cannot look after yourself or your baby, or if you have plans to harm yourself, you should contact someone immediately. It could be your GP, The Samaritans or your local Accident and Emergency Unit. A list of other sources of help can be found on our further information / help section.

There are various treatments available; the most common two types are medication and talking treatments. For further information on treatments, read our treatment section or talk to a health professional.

The ideas below may ease some of the anxiety and low mood you are experiencing.

  • Tell someone about how you feel. This could be your partner, a relative or friend or perhaps a stranger on the other end of the telephone.
  • Try to get some sleep when you feel able to, even resting on the sofa or bed may help.Eating may be the last thing on your mind but try to eat regularly, even a small amount is better than nothing. You need your strength to get better and to look after your baby.
  • Perhaps try to do some of the things you used to enjoy, watching the soaps, reading a magazine or a book, soaking in the bath or listening to music. You may feel guilty doing something enjoyable or having some “me” time but your baby will be OK. Just reassure yourself that they are safe and well and being looked after by a friend or a relative or that they are sleeping safely in their crib and the monitor is on.
    Set some time aside to spend alone time with your partner. If you are a single mother, try to do something relaxing or fun with a friend or family member.
  • Some sufferers of PND find it hard to leave the house, others can’t wait to get out. Try attending local groups for new mothers or postnatal support groups. Your health visitor can tell you about groups in your area. You may not feel like going to these groups if you are depressed.
  • Don’t try to be everything to everyone, let others help you with housework, shopping and looking after other children.
  • Exercise, even taking your baby for a walk will help to improve your mood and help with sleep.
  • Buy a self-help book.
  • Alcohol or drugs seem like an escape but they are only help in the short-term and can have an adverse effect on your mental and physical health.
  • Don’t be frightened, lots of women have postnatal depression and you will get better in time.