Post-Natal Depression – About

Having a baby is a very emotional experience and for many new mums the initial response to the birth of a child is one of huge anxiety. This can range from a brief period of feeling emotional and tearful, known as the ’baby blues’, to more severe problems with post-natal depression or puerperal psychosis.

The baby blues

The baby blues usually occur two to four days after birth and are so common as to be seen as normal. Common symptoms are:

  • feeling very emotional and liable to burst into tears for no reasons
  • having difficulty sleeping
  • not feeling like eating
  • feeling anxious, sad or guilty
  • being afraid that you are not up to being a mother

The baby blues is distressing but doesn’t last for long – generally just for a few days. If your feelings last for longer, it may be turning into postnatal depression.

Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression affects around one in ten new mums and there’s no one explanation for why people might develop it and others don’t. It’s thought that the shock of becoming a mother and the impact that this can have on your lifestyle are contributing factors, as well as the effects of post-pregnancy hormones. It can come on gradually or all of a sudden, and generally occurs when your baby is between four and six months old – although it can emerge at any time in the first year. Commons symptoms include:

  • feeling very low
  • feeling tired and very lethargic
  • feeling unable to cope
  • feeling guilty about not coping, or about not loving the baby enough
  • wanting to cry
  • losing your appetite or having difficulty sleeping
  • being hostile or indifferent to your baby
  • having panic attacks, which strike at any time, causing rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms and feelings of sickness or faintness
  • an overpowering anxiety, often about things that wouldn’t normally bother you, such as being alone in the house
  • obsessive fears about the baby’s health or wellbeing, or about yourself and other members of the family

Puerperal psychosis

Puerperal psychosis is a serious psychiatric illness where the mother starts to experience psychosis, such as hearing voices or experiencing delusions, generally a few weeks after giving birth. It is, fortunately, quite rare, occurring in 1 in 1,000 births. Common symptoms include:

  • being very restless, excited, elated and unable to sleep
  • finding it difficult to relate to your environment
  • failing to recognise friends or family members
  • hallucinating or experiencing delusions
  • having wild mood swings
  • losing touch with reality

Further information

For more information on postnatal depression, including guidance on treatments and getting the right support, have a look at the factsheet produced by mental health charity Mind.

Mind also has an infoline that you can call if you need further advice on the subject – 0300 123 3393

 

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