Giving birth is one of the happiest moments of your life, but rapidly adjusting to becoming a parent, hormonal flux and tiredness can sometimes leave you feeling down and depressed too.

Don’t worry though, these feelings - known as the baby blues - are very common. They start in the first week after the birth. With support from your partner and family and by resting up, they usually lift after a few days.

Sometimes though, around one in 10 women develop a more serious type of depression called postnatal depression. This starts a few weeks after the birth and may require medical advice.

 

Have you got the baby blues?

Giving birth is one of the happiest moments of your life, but rapidly adjusting to becoming a parent, hormonal flux and tiredness can sometimes leave you feeling down and depressed too.

Don’t worry though, these feelings - known as the baby blues - are very common. They start in the first week after the birth. With support from your partner and family and by resting up, they usually lift after a few days.

Sometimes though, around one in 10 women develop a more serious type of depression called postnatal depression. This starts a few weeks after the birth and may require medical advice.

 Symptoms include:

  • Tearfulness: Crying for no particular reason.
  • Anxiety: You may worry about your baby’s health, feeding or sleeping pattern, or just feeling weighed down by the responsibility of being a parent.
  • Tiredness and fatigue: You have no energy and feel overwhelmed by getting the most basic tasks done.
  • Irritability: Snapping at your partner or family members.

Can you prevent the baby blues?

Although you can’t do much about hormonal changes, reading about them so you understand why you feel blue may help.

It also makes sense to try and get as much rest as possible and not do too much.  Also remember to eat properly to avoid becoming fatigued. You might find it helpful to chat to friends who have been through the baby blues and get advice about what to expect.

Surviving the baby blues

Experts say this is just a period of readjustment and should pass quickly. Hold onto the fact that so many other mothers feel the same way - so you’re by no means unusual.

The best advice is to rest as much as possible - obviously you still have to look after your baby, but put off all those visitors and accept offers of help with cooking, food shopping, and laundry.

Confide in someone close to you who you feel will be supportive and not judge you about how you are feeling. Talking it through can really help as can crying on their shoulder if need be.

Nap when your baby sleeps during the day to top up your energy levels. Take care to eat healthily too and at regular meals.

How to recognise postnatal depression

If your symptoms of depression persist or start two to eight weeks after birth you may be suffering from postnatal depression.

Symptoms include:

  • Depression: Feeling low, hopeless, overwhelmed, miserable or sad, for no apparent reason.
  • Tiredness: You may feel unable to do basic household chores and have given up on getting dressed.
  • Anxiety: You’ll worry about your baby’s health or even your own and feel pain for which your doctor can find no explanation.
  • Panic attacks: You may feel panicky and unable to keep calm in everyday situations.
  • Obsessional thoughts: You may become fixated about a certain person, situation or activity, or worry that you may harm someone – especially your baby.
  • Sleep problems: You may have poor sleep quality, wake in the early hours of the morning or wake frequently.

What to do if you have postnatal depression

See your doctor for advice about the most appropriate treatments, which may include counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (a talking therapy where you are encouraged to think positively to solve problems) and or drug treatments.

Get help and support from family or friends, confide in someone who will be supportive. Enlist your partner to help with night feeds, eat regularly, get as much as rest as you can and believe you will get better.

Don’t stop going out. Make the effort to find a local mother and baby group for support and friendship.