After the birth more than half of all mothers suffer a period of mild depression called the blues. This may last for a few hours or at most for a few days before disappearing. It may recur due to stress or lack of sleep during the first year. Rest, exercise and nutrition are very important to minimise depression symptoms. Having a good support system from family and friends is essential.
Family or partner support is crucial to giving the mother time for herself. Remember your partner’s needs too, as men experience the emotional stresses of parenthood just as strongly as mothers do. Talk to each other, make time for each other.
Postnatal depression requires expert medical support. You will need advice, reassurance and support.
Patients can present with fatigue or loss of energy, diminished ability to think or concentrate, diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities, significant weight loss or weight gain when not dieting, or a decrease or increase in appetite. Patients can also present with insomnia or excessive sleepiness throughout the day.
Other features suggestive of postnatal depression include agitation, feeling despondent, feeling anxious or fearful, panic attacks, feeling very sad and crying frequently. If you feel that you may have postnatal depression, call your Doctor to find out what treatment might be needed, which might sometimes mean referral to a psychiatrist or mental health support midwife.
It is important to realise that postnatal depression is a real illness which can be treated successfully with antidepressant drugs. These drugs are not addictive. They make the unpleasant symptoms fade until they go completely. It is important to remember that all mothers recover from postnatal depression.