Most new mothers experience “baby blues” after childbirth, which commonly include mood swings, crying spells, anxiety, and difficulty sleeping. Baby blues begin within the first two to three days after delivery and may last for up to two weeks.
But some new mothers experience a more severe, long-lasting form of depression known as postpartum depression, also referred to as postnatal depression. It is a completely treatable illness, early diagnosis and treatment can help you recover quickly and bond with your baby.
Baby blues symptoms
Signs and symptoms of baby blues — which last only a few days to two weeks after your baby is born — may include:
- Mood swings
- Feeling anxious
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Appetite problems
- Trouble sleeping
Symptoms of Postnatal depression
Postpartum depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and last longer, and may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks. Symptoms usually develop within the first few weeks after giving birth but may begin earlier ― during pregnancy ― or later — up to a year after birth.
Postpartum depression signs and symptoms may include:
- Feeling low, anxious, crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep not sleeping even when your baby sleeps, checking on the baby
- Feeling tired
- Reduced interest and unable to enjoy things
- Intense irritability
- Feel that you’re not a good mother
- Hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.
How common is PND?
10-15 in every 100 women become depressed after having a baby.
What causes Postnatal Depression?
There’s no single cause of postpartum depression, but physical and emotional issues may play a role.
- Previous depression or other mental health problems
- Depression or anxiety in pregnancy or previous h/o of postnatal depression
- Family h/o of depression or postnatal depression
- Poor social support
- Recent stressful events
- Your baby has health problems or other special needs
- You have twins or multiple births
- Unplanned or unwanted pregnancy
Treatment vary depending on the severity of your illness and your individual needs.
Postpartum depression is often treated with talking therapy or counselling, medication or both.
- Counselling –It may help to talk through your concerns with mental health professional and find better ways to cope with your feeling to respond to situations in a positive way.
- Antidepressants – Your doctor may recommend an antidepressant. If you’re breast-feeding, any medication you take will enter your breast milk. However, most antidepressants can be used during breast-feeding with little risk of side effects for your baby. Work with your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits of specific antidepressants.
With appropriate treatment, postpartum depression symptoms usually improve. In some cases, postpartum depression can continue, becoming chronic depression. It’s important to continue treatment after you begin to feel better. Stopping treatment too early may lead to a relapse.
How to help yourself
- Do tell someone how you feel
- Do sleep or rest during the day or night
- Do eat regularly
- Do find time to do things you enjoy or make you relaxed
- Do go to local groups for new mothers or postnatal support groups
- Do let others help with housework, shopping and looking after other children
- Do exercise
- Do use self-help books and website
- Do contact organisations that support women with Postnatal Depression
- Don’t blame yourself, your partner or close friends or relatives
Left untreated, postpartum depression can interfere with mother-child bonding and cause family problems.
- For mothers – untreated postpartum depression can last for months or longer, sometimes becoming a chronic depressive disorder. Even when treated, postpartum depression increases a woman’s risk of future episodes of major depression.
- For children –children of mothers who have untreated postpartum depression are more likely to have emotional and behavioural problems.
- Don’t stop antidepressant medication in pregnancy without advice. You are more likely to relapse if you have had severe depression9, several episodes or a recent episode.
- Discuss this with your psychiatrist.
- They can recognize any signs of depression early.
- Make sure you have treatment for depression in pregnancy.
- If you have a history of depression — especially postpartum depression — tell your doctor if you’re planning on becoming pregnant or as soon as you find out you’re pregnant.
- During pregnancy, your doctor can monitor you closely for signs and symptoms of depression. Sometimes mild depression can be managed with support groups, counselling or other therapies. In other cases, antidepressants may be recommended — even during pregnancy.
- After your baby is born,your doctor may recommend an early postpartum check-up to screen for signs and symptoms of postpartum depression. The earlier it’s detected; the earlier treatment can begin. If you have a history of postpartum depression, your doctor may recommend antidepressant treatment or counselling immediately after delivery.
Even if you have been depressed for a while, support, counselling and medication can all help. It’s never too late.