Postnatal depression (PND) affects around 10% of mothers. This is much more serious than the period post birth known as ‘baby blues’ which usually lasts between one to three days. PND can develop slowly and may not be noticeable until several weeks after the baby’s birth, or may continue on from the baby blues period.
Support when you need it most-
Sadly, many mothers experience severe depression without recognising it as a treatable illness. This can result in the mother suffering needless distress which may also affect her family and friends and relationship with her baby. If a mother can recognise her condition, then she can seek medical help at an earlier stage of the illness.
Symptoms of Postnatal depression PND-
Most symptoms of PND start during the first year after the birth of your baby. These usually occur within three months of the birth and are similar to symptoms of depression at other times in life. Symptoms of PND include:
- Sad mood
- Feeling unable to cope
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Tiredness though difficulty sleeping
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Loss of interest in sex
- Appetite issues – loss of appetite or comfort eating
- Lack of energy
In more severe cases, you may have distressing thoughts about harming your baby, or even suicide. It is very rare for women with PND to harm their babies, but you feel so desperate that you can worry about what you may do. Some mothers who don’t even have PND sometimes have these feelings. Unfortunately whichever symptoms are experienced, it is common to dismiss these feelings or hide them, as you many worry that they will be considered a poor mother.
What are the causes of Postnatal depression PND?-
There may be several factors which can cause PND. The drop in hormones after childbirth has been thought to cause PND however, research shows no significant difference in hormone levels of women with PND and those without, plus treatment of hormones has not been effective.
The causes are more likely to be due to the combination of overwhelming life changes which a new baby brings. Some babies cry more than others and this can be extremely difficult to cope with - it cannot be underestimated how demanding a responsibility it is to look after a baby who is totally dependent on you. You are more likely to get PND if:
- You have suffered depression or PND before or had ‘baby blues’
- Any members of your family have suffered from depression or PND
- You have a difficult relationship with your partner who you cannot discuss your feelings with
- You don’t receive much assistance from family or friends
- You have experienced other stressful events recently e.g. bereavement
- You or your partner have financial worries
As you focus all energy on looking after your baby, you will probably find that her relationship with her partner changes. You may be less interested in sex which could cause a strain on the relationship. If you have stopped work, your social life plus income will have lowered and this may add to the depression.
Care and Management of PND-
Postnatal illness is curable. With the right help, treatment and support you will recover fully. Your GP can arrange counselling and psychotherapy – some local practices have their own counsellor. Another type of psychotherapy commonly used is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
How does cognitive behavioural therapy work in the treatment of PND?-
CBT tackles your negative thoughts and helps people think in a more balanced way, challenging a person’s assumptions about their lives. It aims to identify and change aspects of behaviour that may cause or prolong symptoms of depression. By helping you change the way you think about life, you'll be able to accept failures more easily and take credit for your achievements. Cognitive behavioural therapy aims to give you skills for life, reducing the likelihood of you becoming depressed again.
How the Priory can help to treat Postnatal depression PND-
The Priory has specialist professionals who offer a service for new mothers suffering from mental health problems and who require professional support and guidance. We aim to foster development of the relationship between you and your and child and to promote understanding of the illness through parenting skills education and therapy. Where possible we will involve family members in the treatment programme.
Our multi-disciplinary team provide the highest standards of care, understanding and service for everyone and our service brings hope and confidence, allowing our patients to take control of their lives within a safe and secure environment.