Postnatal Depression

Having a baby is an emotional and life changing experience. In the days and weeks following childbirth many new mothers experience some form of depression. In all there are three types of depression that can be classed in the spectrum of postnatal depression:
  • Baby Blues – This is the commonest form of PND and it can affect over half of new mothers, usually taking the form of a low mood and tearfulness that starts a few days after childbirth and lasts for approximately a week. It is also the mildest form of PND and does not require treatment.
  • Postnatal Depression – Postnatal depression itself affects about 10% of new mothers and can often take longer to manifest itself than baby blues. It usually develops within the first month following childbirth though in some cases it can take several months to appear.
  • Postnatal (puerperal) psychosis – This is a much rarer form of PND and only affects about 1 in 500 women. It is most common among women who have, or whose family has, a history of PND or bipolar disorder. It can start within days of childbirth and can lead to hearing voices, rapid mood swings and seeing things that are not there. Postnatal psychosis nearly always requires specialist psychiatric treatment but a full recovery is possible with the proper treatment and care.

Symptoms of postnatal depression

Postnatal depression can affect different people in different ways. The list below features many of the most common symptoms of PND.

  • Anxiety – This is a particularly common symptom of PND and, quite understandably, will often revolve around the normal worries a parent feels for their child but to an almost overwhelming degree.
  • Irritability
  • Low moods and tearfulness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feeling tired but at the same time unable to sleep
  • Suicidal thoughts

Another fairly common symptom is for women with PND to worry about harming their baby. While there are actually very few instances of women with PND following through on these thoughts it is important that if you are feeling this way, or you are worried that a mother you know may harm her child, that you seek the help of a medical professional.

Treatment for postnatal depression

If you are feeling any of the above symptoms it is important that you seek help by talking to your GP, midwife or health visitor. The good news is that even if postnatal depression is diagnosed it can be treated.

Treatment for postnatal depression usually takes the same form as treatment for ordinary depression and consists of a combination of self help, talking therapies (such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Interpersonal Therapy and Counselling) and antidepressant medications.

Useful Websites

  • Association for Post-Natal Illness The Association for Post-Natal Illness is a Registered Charity (No. 280510) that aims to provide support to mothers suffering from post-natal illness and to increase public awareness of the illness.
  • Depression Alliance Depression Alliance is the leading UK charity for people with depression. Their aim is to relieve and to prevent this treatable condition by providing information and support services to those who are affected by it via our publications, supporter services and network of self-help groups for people affected by depression.
  • MAMA The Meet A Mum Association (MAMA) is a UK registered charity which aims to provide friendship and support to all mothers and mothers-to-be.
  • Mind Mind is the leading mental health charity in England and Wales. They work to create a better life for everyone with experience of mental distress.
  • Samaritans Samaritans provides confidential non-judgemental emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which could lead to suicide.