Post Natal Depression and The Baby Blues

Post Natal Depression (Post-Partum Depression) and the Baby Blues

Exhaustion and lack of sleep, or Post Natal Depression  (PND)?

New mothers may think that not coping is due to lack of sleep and exhaustion, having NO time for yourself, hormonal changes after giving birth, and the major changes that a new baby (or second or third child) brings.
Is there really such a thing as Post Natal Depression or the Baby Blues?
Post Natal Depression is described as moderate to severe depression in a woman after she has given birth. It may occur soon after delivery or up to a year later, or more. Most of the time, it occurs within the first 3 months after delivery.
 A new mother who has any symptoms of post natal depression should take steps right away to get help.

 What are the Baby Blues ?

Women commonly have mood changes during pregnancy, especially after delivery. These mood changes may be caused by changes in hormone levels.  Many non-hormonal factors may also affect mood during this period:

  • Changes in your body from pregnancy and delivery (hormones, surgery)
  • Having less time and freedom for yourself
  • Lack of sleep
  • Worries about your ability as a mother
  • Changes in work and social relationships
  • Marital / relationship difficulties with your partner after the birth of the baby
  • Feelings of anxiety, irritation, tearfulness, and restlessness are common in the week or two after pregnancy.

These feelings are often called the post natal or “baby blues.” These symptoms almost always go away soon, without the need for treatment.

Post Natal Depression may occur when the baby blues do not fade away or when signs of depression start 1 or more months after childbirth.

You may have a higher chance of Post Natal Depression if you:

  • Did not plan the pregnancy, or had mixed feelings about it
  • Had depression, bipolar depression or an anxiety disorder before
  • Had an emotional crisis during pregnancy /delivery eg. Separation from your partner, illness, death / illness of a loved one
  • Had a stressful pregnancy /delivery  E.g. a delivery that was difficult, emergency or premature delivery, or some illness or birth defect in the baby
  • Have a poor relationship with your partner, or are single
  • Have little support from your partner, family or friends
  • Feel very alone in looking after your baby
  • Have financial stress
  • Currently abuse alcohol, take illegal substances, or smoke

Symptoms

The symptoms of post natal depression are the same as the symptoms of depression that occurs at other times in life.  Along with a sad or depressed mood, you may have some of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling withdrawn or unconnected to the baby or those around you
  • Negative feelings toward the baby (or feeling numb)
  • Significant anxiety and feeling overwhelmed most of the time
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Weeping a lot
  • Agitation or irritability
  • High level of lethargy or very low energy
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in most or all activities
  • Loss of concentration
  • Problems doing tasks at home or work
  • Thoughts of death or suicide (or just not wanting to be around, to be anywhere else).

You may also :

  • Be unable to care for yourself or your baby
  • Be afraid to be alone with your baby
  • Have negative feelings toward your baby or even think about harming the baby (These feelings are scary, but they are seldom acted on. But you should tell your Clinical Psychologist / doctor about them right away.)
  • Worry intensely about your baby, or have little interest in your baby
  • In serious cases, if you develop thoughts that are not based in reality, or you start hearing or seeing things that other people cannot, you must contact the Clinical Psychologist as soon as possible.

Diagnosis and Treatment

There is no single test to diagnose Post Natal Depression (PND). Your Clinical Psychologist and/or doctor may assist you to look for signs of PND.  Sometimes depression following pregnancy can be related to other medical conditions, such as hypo-thyroidism, low iron etc.

The treatment for depression after birth often includes therapy and when necessary, medication. Therapy assists you to understand what is happening to you, and help you address some of these issues.  If this alone is not helping , then medication can be an option in addition to psychotherapy.   There are several types of antidepressant medications that may be given to breastfeeding mothers.
If left untreated, post natal depression can last for months or years.  You may be at risk of harming yourself or your baby, or of neglecting your baby.

If you are neglecting your baby, or thinking of harming yourself or your infant, please contact me as soon as possible.

Phone now to make an appointment on 082 294-4575