Most of us would expect to find a new baby hard work.
But 1 in 10 women find themselves not just coping with the demands of a new baby, but struggling with feelings of depression.
Making it through each day becomes a huge effort for these mums. They may begin to wonder if there’s any hope for the next 16-18 years, or even wish that they or their baby did not exist anymore. Unlike other mums (who can have a good moan and then get on with the task of bringing up their children), it is incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to carry on as normal. Mums in this situation may well have postnatal depression (PND) and will therefore need help.
PND is reasonably common, but it’s certainly not an inevitable part of having a baby, and thankfully, it can be treated. Mild PND can be helped by increased support from family and friends, whilst more severe depression requires a visit to the doctor who may prescribe antidepressants.
PND usually starts within a month of giving birth, but it can occur at any time in the first year. It can emerge gradually or suddenly, and can vary in severity. Symptoms differ too, but include depression, irritability, extreme tiredness, problems with sleeping, loss of appetite or comfort eating, anxiety or obsessive behaviour, panic attacks, crying, loss of concentration and even suicidal thoughts.
It is not known what causes PND, but you are more likely to suffer if you’ve had depression (especially PND) before, if you do not have a supportive partner, if you have a premature or sick baby, if you lost your mother when you were a child, or if you’ve had several recent life stresses such as bereavement, unemployment, housing or money problems.
The baby blues or postnatal depression?
On the third of fourth day after giving birth, 60-80% of new mothers will experience mood swings and feel a bit weepy, flat or anxious. This is thought to be due to the rapid hormone changes associated with the end of pregnancy and the production of breast milk. This feeling is not an illness, does not need treatment other than the reassuring support of friends and family and usually goes by about day 10. However, if the feeling continues for more than a couple of weeks, it may be developing into PND and treatment will be needed. Visit BabyCentre for further information.*
Dads with postnatal depression?
Studies indicate that it is not just mums who struggle with PND. About 10% of new fathers become depressed after the birth of a child. Of course, men do not have the hormonal changes that women do, but the life changes that come with a new baby are just as big for them and the depression is no less serious. Men find it particularly hard to seek help and so they are more likely to turn to drink or drugs, or to bury themselves in their work. A confidential telephone helpline exists to support dads in this situation. Call Fathers Matter on 01268 556328 or go to dad.info for more information.*
What to do next
If you suspect that you might be suffering with PND then make it a priority to seek help and get treatment. It’s difficult to motivate yourself when depressed and easy to be so busy with your baby that you do not find the time to look after yourself, but it’s vitally important that you do something about this. Make an appointment with your health visitor or G.P. as soon as possible or talk with a trusted family member or friend.
* This information is supplied in good faith, but Care for the Family cannot accept responsibility for any advice or recommendations made by other organisations or resources.
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