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If you're worried you could be suffering from postnatal depression, you're not alone. Seek help straight away to get back on the right track
We've all heard talk of the 'baby blues'. Unfortunately they're neither a fad nor an old wives' tale – postnatal depression (PND) is very much alive and kicking. All new mothers should look out for the telltale signs of postnatal depression for the best chance of coping with it.
Feelings of shock, bewilderment and low mood are so common shortly after a birth they are considered normal. Around 85% of new mothers will experience emotional and tearful periods, starting 3-10 days after giving birth. Fathers may undergo similar feelings. This can be worrying and distressing, especially when you want to enjoy baby's first days and weeks as much as possible, but remember that for most of you this stage will pass soon.
Around 10-15% of new mothers find that these feelings develop and persist. This means that more than one in 10 will go on to experience depression after the first few weeks of pregnancy; low mood turns into hopelessness and sufferers find little or no pleasure in doing things they normally enjoy. Some women may not recognise their own depression, putting it down to a stressful time in life. Others may hide it, worried about being seen as a bad mother. If you or a friend or loved one suspect you may be suffering from any of the symptoms of PND, it's important to seek help from your GP.
Signs and symptoms
• Feeling tearful for no apparent reason
• Inability to cope
• Feeling sad, low, angry, irritable
• Experiencing hostility or indifference to your partner or baby
• Loss of concentration
• Loss of appetite
• Sleep problems
• Loss of interest in sex
• Thoughts about death
If you're worried you may be suffering from PND, see your GP as soon as possible. Early symptoms can be detected by a questionnaire used by health visitors to determine whether you have the condition or not, so ask to take this if you're concerned. Your GP may suggest and facilitate a range of treatments including counselling, psychotherapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), prescription medication and behavioural change such as increased activity or some dietary changes.
The cause of PND isn't known, and you must never blame yourself. A range of factors might increase your chance of developing it, so it can be helpful to be aware of these. They include:
• Previous mental health problems
• Lack of support
• Poverty and poor living situations
• Previous low self-esteem
Treatment and recovery rates differ from person to person, but the best thing you can do to get you and baby back on the road to good health is to tell others how you're feeling and make an appointment with your GP straight away.
By Sophie Morris