Your Emotional Wellbeing After Birth

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Postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby.

It’s a common problem, affecting more than one in every 10 women within a year of giving birth. It can also affect fathers and partners.

It’s important to get help as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed, as your symptoms could last for months or get worse and have a significant impact on you, your baby and your family.

Giving birth is a lifechanging event and although a time to celebrate, many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first few weeks. This is often called the “baby blues” and is so common that it’s considered normal.

What’s the difference between the ‘baby blues’ and postnatal depression?

The ‘baby blues’ is a brief period of low mood and feeling emotional and tearful around 3-10 days after you give birth. You are likely to be coping with lots of new demands and getting little sleep, so it is natural to feel emotional and overwhelmed. This feeling usually only lasts for a few days and is generally quite manageable.

Postnatal depression is a much deeper and longer-term depression. This usually develops within six weeks of giving birth and it can be gradual or sudden. It can range from being mild to very severe.

The “baby blues” do not last for more than two weeks after giving birth. If your symptoms last longer or start later, you could have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression can start any time in the first year after giving birth.

Myths about postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is often misunderstood and there are many myths surrounding it.

Common myths are:

  • Postnatal depression is less severe than other types of depression.
    • Not true, postnatal depression is as serious as other types of depression.
  • Postnatal depression is entirely caused by hormonal changes.
    • – Not true, postnatal depression is actually caused by many different factors.
  • Postnatal depression will soon pass.
    • Not true, unlike the “baby blues”, postnatal depression can last for months if left untreated and in a minority of cases it can become a long-term problem.
  • Postnatal depression only affects the birthing woman.
  • Not true, research has found that up to one in 10 new fathers/partners become depressed after having a baby.

Signs that you or someone you know might be depressed include:

  • a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
  • lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
  • lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
  • finding it difficult to look after yourself and your baby
  • withdrawing from contact with other people
  • problems concentrating and making decisions
  • frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby

Many people do not realise they have postnatal depression because it can develop gradually. It may be that it is your partner, family or friend who can identify depression – it can be hard to see it yourself when you are in it.

Speak to your GP, midwife or health visitor as soon as possible if you think you may be depressed.

Remember that:

A range of help and support is available, including talking therapy depression is an illness like any other it’s not your fault you’re depressed – it can happen to anyone being depressed does not mean you’re a bad parent it does not mean you’re going mad your baby will not be taken away from you – babies are only taken into care in very exceptional circumstances

Treatments for postnatal depression

Postnatal depression can be lonely, distressing and frightening, but support and effective treatments are available.

These include:

Self-help

Self-help includes things you can try yourself, such as talking to your family and friends about your feelings and what they can do to help, making time for yourself to do things you enjoy, resting whenever you get the chance, getting as much sleep as you can at night, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet.

Talking therapy

Your GP may be able to recommend a self-help course or may refer you for a course of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)Antidepressants

 Antidepressants may be recommended if your depression is more severe or other treatments have not helped. Your doctor can prescribe a medicine that’s safe to take while breastfeeding.

Local and national organisations, such as the Association for Post Natal Illness (APNI) and Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS), can also be useful sources of help and advice.

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