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  Postnatal Depression

Since my baby as born I have just been feeling so sad and unable to cope, and I am hardly able to sleep at all. My Doctor has diagnosed postnatal depression. I was too embarrassed to ask about it – please can you give me some information.

Postnatal depression (PND) is a depressive illness that occurs after having a baby. It is common for women following childbirth to experience a 'low' mood period. This can range from a mild and normal period of mood disturbance ('baby blues'), through to PND and the most severe and rarest problem (postnatal psychosis). In fact it is estimated that one in seven mothers experience post-natal depression of varying severity, usually in the early months following the birth.

The symptoms are very similar to those seen in 'ordinary' depression.

- Feeling 'low', 'miserable' and ‘tearful’ for no apparent reason. Being unable to enjoy yourself. This may be prominent in new mothers who feel that they are not enjoying having a new baby the way they expected to.

- Irritability is common. This may be with other children, the new baby and particularly with the partner.

- Sleep disturbance is part of looking after a new baby. However in PND there may be additional problems of finding it hard to go to sleep even though you are tired, or waking early in the morning.

- Given that looking after a young baby means having less sleep than usual, it is no surprise that mothers often feel they have no energy. This can be even worse in mothers with PND.

- Appetite is sometimes affected, with mothers not being interested in food. This can be a particular problem since new mothers need all the energy they can get to look after their babies.

- Anxiety frequently occurs in PND. This may take many forms. It may be feeling tense and 'on edge' all the time. Normal concerns and anxieties that any mother feels for a new baby may become overwhelming. In addition mothers may experience 'panic attacks' which are episodes lasting several minutes when they feel as if something catastrophic is about to happen - such as collapsing, having a heart attack or stroke. These are extremely frightening but they do get better on their own.

- Depression is often accompanied by feelings of being 'worthless' and 'hopeless'. These feelings are common in PND. All mothers are faced with new and sometimes difficult problems with a new baby. However, mothers with PND feel all the more 'not able to cope' and unable to see a way through their difficulties.

- When people are depressed, they sometimes feel that there is no way out of their problems and that they, and their family, would be better off dead. Thoughts of suicide are therefore not uncommon. If you feel this way, it is important that you talk to somebody about how you feel, since there are ways out of your difficulties other than suicide.

Visit the website of the postnatal depression society: http://www.pndsa.co.za for help and support

See also:

Postnatal depression - Causes

Postnatal depression - Father

Postnatal depression - Father’s Embarrassment

Postnatal depression - Helping Yourself

Postnatal depression - Predisposition

Postnatal depression - Postnatal depression or baby blues?

Postnatal depression - Treatment

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