Postnatal, or otherwise known as postpartum depression is a kind of depression that occurs after your child is born. It differs from baby blues, which is where you may experience; anxiety, crying, mood swings, a feeling of overwhelm, sleeping trouble and other difficult emotions a few days to weeks after having your baby. Instead, with postnatal depression the feelings are more extreme and long-lasting.
Symptoms of postpartum depression:
- Severe mood swings
- Crying constantly or near constantly
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling incapable or inadequate
- Struggling to think properly
- Feeling restless
- Feeling angry or irritable
- Feeling totally exhausted beyond normal levels
- Struggling to sleep much, or sleeping too much
- Eating comfort foods to excess or not eating much at all
- Struggling to develop a bond with your baby
- Thinking about dying or suicide a lot
- Having intrusive thoughts of self harm, or harming your child
- Worrying, or even belief you aren’t a good mum
- Total feel of overwhelm
These feelings may well seem like the baby blues, but when they are more extreme and they last longer than a few weeks, they can be identified as postpartum depression.
Is Postpartum Depression The Same As Postpartum Psychosis?
Postpartum psychosis is not postpartum depression. Instead, it is a rare condition that comes on usually within a week or two after the birth of the child causing some extreme symptoms. It is where the mother experiences psychosis and delusions after giving birth and may cause herself or her baby harm if treatment is not sought quickly.
Postpartum psychosis symptoms:
- Strong thoughts of wanting to hurt yourself or your baby (or both)
- Actual attempts to hurt yourself or your baby
- Delusions or hallucinations such as hearing voices or seeing things that aren’t there
- Extreme paranoia
- Struggle with sleep
- Extreme confusion
- Agitation and aggression
- Potential fear of others and secrecy
- Obsessively thinking about your baby
Depression During Pregnancy
Depression during pregnancy happens to around 7% of women and is sometimes called prenatal depression. People who are more at risk of this are people who:
- Suffer from anxiety or depression pre-pregnancy
- Struggle with stress during pregnancy
- Have little to no support from friends or family
- Are pregnant but the pregnancy wasn’t planned
- Have a mentally or physically violent relationship with their partner
You can get treatment for depression during pregnancy but you have to ask for help first. If you are struggling with how you feel or your behaviour during pregnancy please speak to a loved one or your doctor and seek help, because there is plenty there available for you – you’re not alone.
Can Dads Get Postpartum Depression Too?
Dads can have the same symptoms as mums with postpartum depression and may be at a higher risk of getting it because they have a history of depression, or of emotional vulnerability. If you’re a Dad struggling with the postpartum depression symptoms listed above you are entitled to support just like your partner is.
You can find out more information about the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in men here, as they differ slightly from those seen in women suffering from the condition.
Why Aren’t Women Reporting Postpartum Depression?
Around 70-80% of women will experience the baby blues, or worse, postpartum depression. Despite this, the rates of women reporting what they are going through is as low as 10%.
This difficult condition is far too underreported, and that is often because awareness of postpartum depression remains low. Many women or their partners or family don’t recognise the signs of the condition and assume it is all part of the normal post-childbirth emotional spectrum. It isn’t always seen as anything that can be helped and so, as a result, they suffer in silence, or worse, succumb to the symptoms and potentially cause harm to themselves or their child.
Fear is another key reason that women don’t talk to their doctors about postpartum depression symptoms because they mistakenly worry they will be judged and might even have their children taken away.
Why Should You Report Postpartum Depression Symptoms To Your Doctor?
It is important to understand that any kind of pregnancy or anxiety suffered during or after pregnancy is common and treatable and you don’t have to continue to suffer. The first step is to seek professional help and admit that something isn’t right.
If you’re the partner of a person who is showing symptoms, it is important to try and speak to them first and then either seek medical help together, or speak to a doctor on their behalf.
With postpartum psychosis sometimes medical intervention has to occur for the safety of mother and baby. Special facilities or medical services ensure mother, baby and their bond remain a top priority during treatment and their wellbeing is always the most important aspect of care.
It is also important to note that breastfeeding is not an obstruction to you taking medication for postpartum conditions. Your doctor can advise you on the safety of this so that you feel totally informed about what you feel happy doing moving forward. You always have options and your doctor is there to work with you to ensure you get the right health treatment for you.
Postpartum Depression Treatment
The treatment provided to mothers for postnatal depression depends on their symptoms and how severe they are. More often than not a mixture of medications like antidepressants and talking therapies are prescribed. In more severe cases, more applied talking therapies and medications may be used.
Postpartum Depression Prevention
If you have experienced postnatal depression before, it is more likely you will experience it again in a future pregnancy. You are also more likely to get it if you have experienced depression or anxiety before.
Knowing these things won’t necessarily prevent you getting the condition, but if you let your doctor know, you can both keep looking out for signs and symptoms and start treatment sooner rather than later. This monitoring will continue throughout your pregnancy and after your baby is born.
To prevent the condition developing further if you do have it, there are also plenty of things to help you cope better after your child comes including:
- Being comfortable with asking for help and letting your loved ones know how they can help
- Being honest with yourself about how you feel
- Keeping things realistic when it comes to how things ‘should be’
- Getting enough ‘me time’ and fresh air, exercise and healthy food
- Expecting things to be up and down
- Allowing your closest circle to be there for you and avoiding isolating yourself
- Keeping visitations to your home to a minimum if it is making you feel stressed
- Avoid leaning on alcohol and caffeine
- Sleep whenever you can, ideally when baby sleeps
- Limit phone calls, social media time and messaging
The most important thing is to feel comfortable asking for help when you need it, whether that is with general coping with a newborn, or by speaking to loved ones about your symptoms.
Get Help For Postpartum Depression Today
Whether you think you’re at risk of pregnancy depression, or you’re experiencing postpartum depression or postpartum psychosis symptoms, please seek help today. Postpartum depression is common, treatable and you will not be judged by your doctor for speaking up. Reach out for help today for a better tomorrow for the whole family.