Post-natal depression

Post-natal depression (PND) is very common among new parents and may affect as many as one in six new mothers. Although it is rare, fathers can also get PND. Join Our support group

Symptoms of PND

Symptoms, which can develop up to two years after the birth, include:

  • loss of enjoyment and interest in life
  • feelings of depression
  • exhaustion and lack of energy
  • lack of self-esteem
  • feelings of guilt and pessimism
  • lack of interest in yourself and your baby
  • physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pains or blurred vision
  • irritability and tearfulness

Another symptom in mothers with PND is thinking about harming your baby. This is very common, occurring in about half of all cases. You may also think about harming yourself.

If you think you have these or any other symptoms of PND, it’s important to see your doctor immediately. Getting treatment and getting well again is important for both you your baby and your partner.

Diagnosing PND

Your doctor may give you a blood test to see if there could be another reason for your symptoms, like an underactive thyroid gland or anaemia. They may also ask you ten simple questions, designed to confirm the condition.

Some doctors use these questions, known as the ‘Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale’, during pregnancy to see if the mother is likely to get PND after the birth.

Treating PND

In some cases, doctors give antidepressants to treat PND. Antidepressants are tablets that balance the mood-altering chemicals in your brain, relieving feelings of depression. A course of antidepressants normally runs for four to six months, but if your condition starts to improve the length of treatment may be reduced.

Treating severe cases

PND in its most severe form is otherwise known as post-natal psychosis. These cases have different symptoms - as well as suicidal thoughts the sufferer may have hallucinations, behave irrationally and believe things that aren’t true.

Different treatments may also be required. In many cases antidepressants will work but they will not work for everyone. Tranquilisers may be prescribed instead, but only for a short time.

Support from family and friends

The first step to recovery is recognising you have a problem and going to the doctor. The second step is opening up to your family friends, who can help share the burden. Don’t keep everything that is troubling you bottled up inside - talk to those closest to you. You may be surprised how much this can help your recovery.

Counselling

Talking to a trained professional can also be a very useful treatment for PND. Discuss your options with your doctor. They may suggest you see a social worker or attend a self-help group. They may also refer you to a psychologist or other mental health specialist.

Association for Post Natal Illness (APNI)

The Association for Post Natal Illness has a helpline on 020 7386 0868 – Monday, Wednesday and Friday 10.00 am to 2.00 pm, Tuesday and Thursday 10.00 am to 5.00 pm.

APNI offers help, advice and support to women affected by post-natal depression. There is a network of volunteers who provide postal, telephone or email support to depressed mothers. Leaflets are also available.

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