Low mood, postnatal depression and puerperal psychosis in new mothers
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Dr Anna Maw
Consultant pediatrician at Cambridge University NHS Trust in the UK. A child doctor specializing in brain development and neurology. She has three children.
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Post-natal depression

Have I got postnatal depression?

Having a baby is a life-changing experience. For many new mothers, it's a happy (albeit emotional) time. However, a significant proportion of women feel anxious or depressed beyond what can be described as the 'baby blues', and it's important to understand this is very common. Mention it to your doctor or midwife, who will be able to offer help and support.
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In Short
Exhaustion after the birth, combined with sleep deprivation and changes in hormone levels (not to mention the stress of looking after a newborn baby) leads to many new mums feeling overwhelmed and depressed.

It's less common but dads can experience depression after the birth of their new baby too.

Talk to family, friends, or your midwife, health visitor or doctor if you're worried that the 'baby blues' may, in fact, be postnatal depression.

Postnatal depression

Even if you have good support during pregnancy and after your baby’s birth, it’s very common to feel depressed, overwhelmed or isolated. The expectation that you’ll be feeling deliriously happy doesn’t help, either – and might mean you don’t want to admit your true feelings to anyone. But be reassured that an awful lot of women out there feel the same way you do.

It’s important that you don’t feel alone, and talking to someone will really help. Speak to your friends or family, if you think they might be understanding and supportive. You may prefer opening up to your midwife, health visitor or doctor – some women feel there’s less risk of ‘being judged’ if they talk to someone not immediately within the family circle. Whoever you confide in, rest assured there’s help available to support you through what can be a really difficult time.

Supportive stories from other real mums

Mum 1I remember filling out a questionnaire from the health visitor who implied that if my feelings didn’t change we may have to think about medication. I thought that was a step too far – actually, I was just totally exhausted from lack of sleep. I definitely felt I was on my own.

Mum 2We’re so far from our families and support networks. I think a lot of people are. And when you have a child you kind of feel like the walls are coming in. What am I supposed to do with this baby? It’s very difficult to relax and trust it’s all going to be fine.

Mum 3 – There’s just so much to do in those early days. The baby is completely helpless, you’ve literally got to do everything, plus you’re trying to get over giving birth. And my birth wasn’t even traumatic, but it was unexpected – she was three weeks early. So getting your head around all of that as well…it was coming up to Christmas. So all of those kinds of thoughts and not being able to just focus on her, as well trying to heal after a Caesarean. Overwhelmed, is the word I would use. That’s honestly how I felt at times.

Note from Diana Hill, co-founder of Essential Parent. Every single woman we filmed for the our videos said they had felt (or were still feeling) frustrated, exhausted, anxious, isolated, upset, sad or depressed at some point after having their baby. I was amazed how many said this. I’d felt it after having my own baby, but I thought I was in the minority, everyone else seemed to be coping really easily! I think it’s important to realise most people go through it, but most people don’t think they should talk about it.
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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.