Post-natal depression (PND) is very common among new parents and may affect as many as one in six new mothers. Although it's rare, fathers can also get PND.
Symptoms of PND
Symptoms, which can develop up to two years after the birth, include:
- loss of enjoyment and interest in life
- feelings of depression
- exhaustion and lack of energy
- lack of self-esteem
- feelings of guilt and pessimism
- lack of interest in yourself and your baby
- physical symptoms like headaches, stomach pains or blurred vision
- irritability and tearfulness
Another symptom in mothers with PND is thinking about harming your baby. This is very common, occurring in about half of all cases.You may also think about harming yourself. If you think you have these or any other symptoms of PND, it's important to see your doctor immediately. Getting treatment and getting well again is important for you, your baby, and your partner.
Your doctor may give you a blood test, to see if there could be another reason for your symptoms, such as an under active thyroid gland or anaemia.
In some cases, doctors give antidepressants to treat PND Antidepressants are tablets that balance the mood-altering chemicals in your brain, relieving feelings of depression. A course of antidepressants normally runs for four to six months, but if your condition starts to improve the length of treatment may be reduced.
Treating severe cases
PND in its most severe form is also known as post-natal psychosis. Sufferers of post-natal psychosis have different symptoms. These can include suicidal thoughts, hallucintations, irrational behavior and believing things that aren’t true. Different treatments may also be required. In many cases antidepressants will work - but not work for everyone. Tranquilisers may be prescribed instead - but only for a short time.
Support from family and friends
The first step to recovery is by recognising that you have a problem, and going to the doctor. The second step is opening up to your family friends, who can help share the burden. Don’t keep everything that is troubling you bottled up inside. Talk to those closest to you. You may be surprised how much this can help your recovery.
Talking to a trained professional can also be a very useful treatment for PND. Discuss your options with your doctor who may suggest you see a social worker or attend a self-help group. Your GP may also refer you to a psychologist or other mental health specialist.