Postnatal Depression

What is postnatal depression (PND)?

Having a baby brings huge changes to your lifestyle as well as to your body. Therefore, it’s normal to feel anxious, low or tearful following the birth. However, for some women these ‘baby blues’ can develop into something much more serious. At least 1 in 10 women will experience Postnatal Depression (PND) following the birth of their child and it’s important that it gets diagnosed and treated quickly to reduce the impact on both the mother and the baby. So how can we recognise PND and what causes it?

What does postnatal depression feel like?

As we’ve already learnt, many women experience ‘baby blues’ following the birth of their child. This can include feeling teary, low, exhausted or very emotional. It is thought that this is caused by the hormonal changes brought about by birth. The ‘baby blues’ usually only last a few days and are not a cause for concern. However, if these feelings continue or intensify, they may be an early sign of PND. PND symptoms are the same symptoms as normal depression, the only difference being that they occur within the first year of having a baby. As with normal depression, PND is very treatable and most women make a swift recovery. Here is a list of some common physical, emotional and behavioural symptoms of PND.

  • Your body: Difficulty sleeping, agitated and unable to relax, a lack of sex drive, a change in appetite, slow and sluggish, jumpy and tense.
  • Your feelings: Guilty, despairing, crying a lot, sad, lacking in self-worth, irritable, angry, loss of enjoyment or interest, not feeling the way you want to about your baby or your partner.
  • Your thoughts: Being critical of yourself and your mothering skills, constantly worrying about the baby, jumping to conclusions, pessimistic thoughts, feelings of hopelessness, concerns about the world around you, thinking everyone else is doing better than you, inability to concentrate, feeling confused or muddled.
  • Your behaviour: Avoiding daily tasks and responsibilities, avoiding social situations, avoiding activities you used to enjoy, arguing or shouting, snapping.

Have you been experiencing a number of these symptoms for more than two weeks following the birth of your child? Then it’s possible that you are suffering from PND.

Why does one experience postnatal depression?

The exact cause for postnatal depression is not clear, however it’s thought that some factors may increase your chances of developing it. These factors include having a history of mental health issues either earlier in your life or during your pregnancy, having a lack of support or a bad relationship with your partner or experiencing stressful life events around the pregnancy, such as financial worries or a bereavement. Even without these factors, it is important to remember that having a baby is life-changing, exhausting and frightening and all of this can trigger depression. The important thing is to not struggle in silence. There is a wide range of help and treatment available.

Understanding how PND affects us and how it is caused is the first step in learning how to tackle it.

Helpful resources for postnatal depression