Having a baby is a very emotional experience, you may feel tearful and your mood may feel low however, there are three causes of low mood after childbirth:
- Baby blues. This is very common and almost considered normal. Symptoms include being weepy/irritability/anxiety and feeling low. It usually starts around the third day, but usually goes by the tenth day after childbirth.
- Postnatal depression. It usually develops within the first four weeks after childbirth however; it can start several months following childbirth. Treatment is advised.
- Postnatal (puerperal) psychosis. This is an uncommon, but a severe form of depression, it can develops in about one in a thousand mothers.
Fathers may also develop postnatal depression.
The symptoms are similar to those that occur with depression at any other time. They usually include one or more of the following.
- Low mood.
- Lack of motivation to do anything.
- Feelings of guilt/rejection, or inadequacy.
- Poor concentration.
- Unable to cope.
Mothers may also have thoughts about harming their baby. Around half of mothers with PND have these thoughts. If things are very bad, mothers may have suicidal ideation nonetheless, this is rare.
In addition, mothers may also have less energy/disturbed sleep/poor appetite, and a low libido. However, these are common and normal for a while after childbirth, and on their own do not necessarily mean that mothers are depressed.
What to do.
If you do nothing about the depression, you are likely to get better anyway in six-nine months, some people take longer nevertheless, there are a number of reasons to ask for help:
- It is not a sign of weakness to admit that you are depressed.
- Feeling depressed can cause problems in your relationships/job, and life in general.
- If you are depressed, your relationship with your baby may not be as good as it could be. You may not give as much attention to your baby as you would like to as a result, your baby’s development may not be as quick as it should be and that developmental problems can persist into adolescence.
The exact cause is not clear. Any mother can develop PND., however mothers are more prone to develop PND just after childbirth. The main cause seems to be stressful events after childbirth such as feelings of isolation/worry, and responsibility about the new baby, et cetera.
Normally, a doctor/midwife will usually check for depression in all mothers who have recently given birth, they may ask the following two questions.
- During the past month, have you often been bothered by feeling down/depressed, or hopeless/helpless?
- In the past month, have you often been bothered by having little interest/pleasure in doing things?
If you answer yes to either of these questions, they may ask a third question:
- Is this something you feel you need or want help with?
Some studies suggest that counselling over several weeks can be of help to ease PND. Antidepressants are sometimes prescribed for PND, and combined with counselling work very well; most mothers find this mode of treatment very helpful.
© 2013 – 2015, Content: Dr Vasilios Silivistris – Artwork: Ian Francis. All rights reserved.