Be alert to warning signs of postnatal depression

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After having a baby, it’s quite common for women to experience what’s sometimes called the baby blues – feelings of irritability and tearfulness.

It is thought that this affects up to 80 per cent of women shortly after they give birth.

However, if you (or your partner) continue to experience these kinds of symptoms after your baby is a month old, it could potentially be a sign of postnatal depression.

This affects around one in 10 women and is slightly more common among teenage mothers.

The important thing to remember is that postnatal depression is an illness and does not mean that you don’t love your baby.

And by recognising and treating postnatal depression as early as possible, you’ll find that it is normally a temporary condition that you will recover from.

· What are the symptoms?

It may be quite difficult to spot postnatal depression at first, as many of the symptoms – including irritability, tearfulness, tiredness, a poor appetite and difficulty sleeping – are experienced by many women after birth.

With postnatal depression, you may also feel depressed, despondent and as if you cannot cope because everything is too much for you.

These feelings can persist over a long period, potentially up to a year after your baby is born.

There are other signs of postnatal depression to look out for, including:

· Memory loss and a lack of concentration;

· Loss of interest in the baby;

· Excessive anxiety about the baby;

· General aches and pains;

· Constant crying and tearfulness;

· Panic attacks;

· Lack of sleep.

· How postnatal depression is treated

Some mothers who have postnatal depression may suffer in silence, perhaps worried that it is a sign that they are a bad mother.

However, it is important to remember that this is not true.

You should tell your partner, a member of your family or a friend if you think you may have postnatal depression.

You could also talk to your health visitor, who will either be able to help or put you in touch with someone else who can. Your GP is also an important port of call.

The treatment that is used to help you recover from postnatal depression will depend on the severity of your condition.

Counselling, by either a health visitor or a therapist, can be a good way to treat milder forms of depression.

However, if your postnatal depression is more severe, then antidepressants may be recommended instead, as well as seeing a specialist.

There are several types of antidepressants that are suitable if you are breast-feeding, so discuss this with your GP.

Organisations such as the National Childbirth Trust or the Association for Post-Natal Illness can also be helpful, and there may be support groups in your local area where you can interact with other mothers to socialise and share advice.

· Don’t forget about dads

Although postnatal depression is mainly a condition that affects women, it is becoming more widely recognised that new fathers can also become depressed – some figures suggest around one in 25 fathers become depressed after the birth of their child.

This depression can be caused by the increased pressures of fatherhood, such as the expense of having children, the responsibility, a heavier workload at home and any changes in relationships with their partner.

While there aren’t as many facilities for men who may experience depression after becoming a father, talking to a GP is a good first port of call if you think you may be suffering from this.