In the hectic, sleep-deprived chaos of caring for a newborn, postnatal depression can be missed or ignored. But with one in seven mums suffering from the condition and effective treatments available, women should not be ashamed to seek help. Watch out for these signs
New parenthood can be incredibly overwhelming, and it’s thought that around 14% of new mums suffer postnatal depression (PND) in the first three months after giving birth. For one in 1000 women, this can develop into a rare but serious condition called postnatal psychosis.
Postnatal depression is often missed because health professionals don’t ask how you’re feeling or you try to hide your condition for fear you’ll be judged. But it’s time to take care of yourself – and see your GP if you have any of the following symptoms.
1. Low mood
It’s normal to feel down in the first few days after giving birth with the baby blues but for women with postnatal depression, feelings of sadness or irritability persist and they don't start to feel more positive after a week or two.
If you have postnatal depression, you may also lose interest in the world and find it hard to take part in activities or motivate yourself. You may also find you cannot enjoy spending time with your baby.
3. Sleep problems
The exhaustion of looking after a baby who won’t sleep or wakes often can make postnatal depression worse, but you may also find you struggle to get to sleep or wake in the night. It can also cause a general feeling of constant tiredness or fatigue.
4. Lack of confidence
Postnatal depression can make you very anxious even when your baby is happy and thriving. Alongside this, sufferers can start to question their decisions and ability as a mum.
‘Women start to think it’s my fault my baby is like this, I’m not doing a good enough job,’ says Dr Liz McDonald from the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Losing your appetite and interest in food can be a sign that you may have postnatal depression (PND). But so can comfort eating to try and make yourself feel better.
6. Frightening thoughts
It is thought around half of women with postnatal depression have thoughts of harming their baby – which can feel incredibly scary and isolating, but do not mean you are a bad mother. ‘Women may also have suicidal thoughts and very negative ideas,’ adds Dr McDonald.
Never feel guilty for asking for support – whether from friends, family, your GP or organisations such as PANDAS on 0843 28 98 401.