Home Parenting Health & Nutrition Postnatal Depression

Postnatal Depression

Email Print

postnatal depressionAuthor: Diana Nickson

There’s quite nothing like having a baby. They say having your baby in your arms for the first time gives you much needed strength and makes you feel complete.
But the "having a baby" package doesn't always come with fun and games alone. Postnatal depression is one of those things that can blemish the experience of being a new parent. We might find it difficult getting used to the new arrival and the changes taking place in our life. We now have a little person depending on us 24/7 and in a natural way, we love just that, being terrifyingly responsible for a fragile tiny somebody for years to come. Little by little, we enjoy being parents and we get to love the changes in our life. We can’t even remember our life before and can’t even imagine our life any other way.

What is the difference between baby blues and postnatal depression?

Baby blues. Yes, sometimes we have the blues, who doesn’t? I don’t need a baby to get mood swings. I have recently proven I could start crying because my dishwasher has broken down. But sometimes after childbirth, the hormonal changes in our body can make the mood swings feel vicious. We might feel sad for a while, have this overwhelming feeling of isolation, we might feel we are stuck with a child for the rest of our life and our life will never be the same, our body has changed in an unattractive way, we find we’re tired, stressed out because of our baby’s intensive routine, can’t sleep when she sleeps and so on. The good news is that baby blues usually go in a matter of days and the key to lose them is to get as much sleep as possible. 
Postnatal depression however is another matter.

What is postnatal depression?

In Depression after childbirth (Oxford University Press, 2001), Katharina Dalton says that “postnatal depression is the first occurrence of psychiatric symptoms severe enough to require medical help occurring after childbirth and before the return of menstruation”.
Postpartum depression is a form of depression found in some women and very rarely men following the birth of their child. Anybody can suffer from it. It does not matter whether you have a strong personality or whether you have a wonderful life, a beautiful baby and it doesn’t make sense that everything is not all roses.
According to different sources, the percentage of women affected by PND in the UK is between 5%-25%, but no source claims the absolute knowledge of the actual figure.

What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?

  • housekeeping duties are suddenly too overwhelming to cope with;
  • we feel life isn’t worth living, there is nothing for us out there;
  • really low moods that occur in the morning or evening more than any other time of the day;
  • general lack of energy and drive to do anything;
  • easily irritable and out of control;
  • feeling guilty for the smallest of reasons;
  • crying frequently and at the drop of a hat;
  • general feeling of exhaustion;
  • severe lack of sleep;
  • cannot enjoy anything;
  • fail to see the funny side of jokes and are generally miserable;
  • severe anxiety about the well being of our baby;
  • severe anxiety about our own well being;
  • lack of concentration, you are not able to follow the storyline of a book or movie;
  • severe doubts about our “fitness” to be parents;
  • no sexual appetite or excessive sexual appetite;
  • unusual forgetfulness;
  • unable to make any decisions at all;
  • no eating appetite or excessive eating appetite;
  • general feeling that we cannot “switch off” even at night.

If you are experiencing all or some of these symptoms, the best, even if it might not be the easiest, thing to do is to talk to your GP or health visitor.

What causes postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression is a form of depression, which ultimately means a slight misbalance of certain brain substances. However, certain health and social factors such as a history of depression, smoking, preexisting low self esteem, stress, low social support, prenatal depression, prenatal anxiety, poor marital relationship, infant temperament problems, being a single parent, socioeconomic deprivation, unwanted pregnancy etc can increase the chances of developing PND.

How is postnatal depression diagnosed?

Usually the health visitor will ask us to take the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale Test and will interpret our answers according to the test’s scoring parameters. If we score 10 or more we’re likely to develop postnatal depression. Feel free to download the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale from our website, complete it and calculate your own score. If you scored at least 10, seriously consider talking to your GP about it and showing your test results. Consider taking the test from time to time or whenever you suspect you might have any of the symptoms listed above.   
Taking the test on your own is particularly helpful if you feel embarrassed to admit to your symptoms when the health visitor presents you with the test at one of their regular visits.

Can postnatal depression be cured?

Of course. PND can sometimes even go away on its own. Even if it’s hard to talk sometimes and you don’t think there is anyone there to listen to you, you just need to say what’s on your mind because it will really help. As a matter of fact this is one of the treatments available and it’s called talk therapy, which means that you just have to open up and say how you feel and what you are experiencing every day.
There is also a drug therapy available on prescription from your GP which will involve the temporary use of antidepressants.
Postnatal depression is a serious illness and it should be taken seriously. An increased awareness regarding PND symptoms in new mums and people interacting with new mums can help a great lot. If you’re reading this article because you are worried about yourself or about someone you know, seriously consider seeking advice from your GP or health visitor. In the meanwhile, share your feelings with people with similar concerns on our community and it might just make a difference.