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Postnatal depression: all you need to know

Updated: Jul 19, 2022

TW: mention of depression, suicide, relationships.

Postnatal depression is something many parents experience after having a baby.

It’s a common problem affecting 1 in 10 people who give birth within the first year of the baby being born. It can also affect partners.

It’s important to get help as soon as possible if you are experiencing signs of depression (postnatal or not) – with the right support you can make a full recovery.

Whether it’s for yourself, your partner, family member or friend – here is our all you need to know guide which includes resources to seek help, symptoms people with postnatal depression experience and more.

Baby blues vs Postnatal depression

Having the ‘baby blues’ after giving birth is quite common (both for people giving birth as well as their partners).

But this typically stops by the time your baby is about 10 days old.

Symptoms of this can include feeling emotional, crying for no apparent reason, feeling irritable or feeling depressed and/or anxious.

But there’s no need to worry, these are all normal feelings caused by hormonal changes as your body readjusts to not being pregnant anymore. You won’t need treatment for these ‘baby blues’ but it can be useful to talk to someone about how you are feeling.

Postnatal depression on the other hand is when you experience feelings of hopelessness, guilt, sadness and/or self-blame for weeks or months after you’ve had a baby.

Some people can also experience depression whilst pregnant – this is called antenatal depression.

Symptoms can vary and effect different individuals in different ways.

It’s important to remember however that depression is a mental health condition and is not a sign of weakness or something that will just go away by itself.

Postnatal depression can be treated with the right support – most people make a full recovery!

The key thing is to ask for help if you think you are depressed.

Postnatal depression symptoms

You may experience one or more of the following:

· Consistent feeling of sadness or low mood

· Difficulty concentrating

· Loss of interest in things you enjoyed

· Low self-confidence

· Problems sleeping e.g. having trouble sleeping after caring for your baby at night

· A poor appetite

· Feelings of guilt/shame

· Feeling easily irritated

· Suicidal thoughts (note: if you are feeling suicidal, please speak to someone close to you, a GP or contact the Samaritans)

If you do experience this and it lasts for over 2 weeks, please speak with your midwife or GP or use some of the resources we’ve included below.

Some previous conditions, stressors and situations may affect how likely it is you become depressed, these include:

· If you’ve had mental health issues in the past (especially depression),

· If you’ve recently been under a lot of stress,

· If you had mental health issues during pregnancy or experiences antenatal depression,

· If you have a poor relationship with your partner,

· If you have no or limited close friends or family you can speak to for support,

· And finally, if you’ve experienced the baby blues.

Even if you don’t have or experience any of these, having a baby is a life-changing event that can sometimes trigger depression.

Becoming a new parent can take time to adapt as taking care of a baby can be stressful and exhausting.

Next steps

If you are experiencing postnatal depression it’s important that you ask for help. Speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP about how you’re feeling.

Health care professionals are not there to judge you. There is no shame or guilt in feeling like this – you are human, and all feelings are valid.

The health care professionals you speak to will be able to help you find the right treatment and support.

If you find it difficult to open up try writing it down or bringing someone you trust along.

Postnatal depression can be treated – it’s an illness that you can recover from, treatment will depend on how severe your depression is.

This can vary from self-help techniques and exercises to counselling. Your health care professional will discuss the options with you.

Many blogs about now will offer self-help tips and advice but we want to reiterate that we are not professionals when it comes to mental or physical health so instead, please feel free to visit the following websites for additional support and advice.

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