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Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression, or PND, is depression experienced by some women several weeks or months after having a baby.

Symptoms of postnatal depression include a low mood, a feeling of not being able to cope and sleep problems.

It is possible to have postnatal depression and not be aware of it.

Around 1 in 7 women experience some depression in the three months after having a baby.

Mood changes are common after giving birth, but postnatal depression is more serious than these 'baby blues'.

Diagnosing postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is diagnosed based on a woman's symptoms.

Other tests may be arranged to help rule out other conditions which could be causing the symptoms.

What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?

Symptoms of postnatal depression are similar to what happens normally following childbirth. They include lack of sleep, appetite changes, excessive fatigue, decreased libido, and frequent mood changes. However, these are also accompanied by the symptoms of major depression - depressed mood; loss of pleasure; feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, and helplessness; and thoughts of death or suicide.

What increases the chance of having postnatal depression?

A number of factors can increase the risk of postnatal depression, including:

  • A history of depression during pregnancy
  • Age at time of pregnancy -- the younger you are, the higher the risk
  • Ambivalence about the pregnancy
  • Children - the more you have, the more likely you are to be depressed in a subsequent pregnancy
  • Having a history of depression or premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
  • Limited social support
  • Living alone
  • Marital conflict

Who is at risk of postnatal depression?

Most new mothers experience the ‘baby blues’ after delivery. About one out of every 10 of these women will develop a more severe and longer-lasting depression after delivery. One in 1,000 women develops a more serious condition called postpartum psychosis.

Do anxiety disorders increase with postnatal depression?

Symptoms of obsessive-compulsive disorder may appear or worsen in the postnatal period. The obsessions are usually related to concerns about the baby or harming the baby. Panic disorder may also occur. Both conditions often coexist with depression.

Can postnatal depression be prevented?

Here are some tips that can help prevent or help you cope with postnatal depression:

  • Ask for help - let others know how they can help you.
  • Be realistic about your expectations for yourself and your baby.
  • Exercise; take a walk and get out of the house for a break.
  • Expect some good days and some bad days.
  • Follow a sensible diet; keep alcohol and caffeine to a minimum.
  • Foster your relationship with your partner - make time for each other.
  • Keep in touch with your family and friends - do not isolate yourself.
  • Limit visitors when you first go home.
  • Screen your phone calls.
  • Sleep or rest when your baby sleeps.

 

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