Postnatal depression is one of the names used for the mood changes that a woman may experience after childbirth. They start within the first year and last for more than two weeks. If they are very severe, they can have a significant negative effect on your life. This is different to ‘baby blues’, when you may feel down or weepy in the first few days after childbirth. It is estimated that 20 – 30 % of all childbearing women suffer some form of emotional problem after the birth of their baby. Fathers can suffer from postnatal depression too.
Symptoms include feeling tearful or irritable, not being able to sleep or feeling numb; you may neglect yourself or experience guilt for not enjoying your baby. There can be many reasons for postnatal depression, a disappointing birth, high expectations, prior depression, ghosts from your past such as an unresolved bereavement, a recent house move, social isolation to name just a few.
What helps is to find support groups, exercise, eat well, try baby massage, reduce your expectations; find someone to talk to – a neighbour, health visitor, or counsellor; some women benefit from medication, which has to be adjusted if you are breastfeeding. If you have postnatal depression it is unlikely to go away by itself, so seek help.