Postpartum depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. It is a common problem, affecting 10 to 20% of women within a year of giving birth and can also affect fathers and partners. It is also known as postnatal depression.
Is Postnatal Depression the same as Baby Blues?
No, they are not the same.
Many women, in fact up to 80% of new moms, feel low, tearful or anxious in the first couple of weeks after giving birth. This is often called postnatal blues or “baby blues”. They do not last for more than 2 weeks after giving birth and will go away without treatment.
Postnatal depression, on the other hand, lasts longer and may start weeks to months after delivery. The symptoms of postnatal depression are persistent.
What are the signs that I or someone I know may have Postnatal Depression?
The symptoms of postnatal depression include:
- Having low mood, feeling irritable or tearful most of the time
- Feeling tired or lacking energy and motivation
- Difficulty concentrating
- Experiencing panic attacks or anxiety
- Experiencing a lack of interest in yourself and/or your new baby, or loss of enjoyment
- Feeling guilty, rejected or inadequate
- Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope
- Difficulty sleeping, or sleeping excessively
- Physical signs of stress such as headaches, abdominal pains, muscular pains
- Thoughts of harming oneself or baby
Many women do not realise that they are suffering from postnatal depression. There may be a lack of awareness contributing to this.
What if I think I have Postnatal Depression?
The most important step in the treatment of postnatal depression is recognizing the problem. There are effective treatments and resources for support.
See your GP /Family Doctor as soon as you recognize the problem. Your GP will do an assessment to help diagnose the problem and give the necessary advice and treatment. Your doctor may order simple blood tests to check for anaemia or thyroid conditions which may contribute to symptoms of depression. Psychological counselling is often helpful and your GP will be able to refer you to a professional counsellor, therapist and support groups. Sometimes, medication such as anti-depressants may be necessary depending on the severity of depression. Your doctor can recommend medications that are safe to take while breastfeeding.
Is there anything I can do for myself to feel better?
There are useful self-help measures such as:
- Talking to your partner, close family and friends about your feelings and what they can do to help
- Making time for yourself to do things you enjoy
- Resting whenever you get the chance, for example when baby is asleep
- Getting as much sleep as you can at night
- Exercising regularly
- Eating a healthy and balanced diet
- Avoiding alcohol and cigarette smoking
I am expecting a baby – is there anything I can do to prevent Postnatal Depression?
There are many things you can do to help you keep well. Keeping both physically and mentally healthy during your pregnancy will help you stay well long after delivery. Good nutrition, regular exercise, sufficient rest, and avoiding alcohol and smoking are essential in ensuring good physical and mental health. Even if this is not your first pregnancy, going to antenatal classes and making friends with other pregnant women can still be helpful. If you have a past history of depression, anxiety or other mental health problems, or a family history of mental health problems after childbirth, it would be helpful to talk to your GP, midwife or counsellor, who can provide you with tools and strategies to navigate post-delivery. Your doctor and supporting team will work closely with you during pregnancy and after delivery.
Do fathers suffer from Postnatal Depression?
Yes, indeed research has found that up to 1 in 10 new fathers become depressed after having a baby. New fathers need to adjust priorities in order to care for mom, baby and possibly other children. The ability to work from home during these pandemic times does present an opportunity for new dads and moms to work as a team to relieve each other for naps, exercise, downtime, and spending time together. Getting involved as much as possible with caring for and playing with your baby enhances bonding and a sense of well-being.
- Depression is an illness like any other and can happen to anyone
- It is not your fault you’re depressed and does not mean you’re a bad parent
Talk to your GP – a range of help and support is available.
Dr June Tan Sheren is a family GP who has been caring for women for many years. As a passionate proponent of women’s health, Dr June is known for her kind and compassionate care. T; 6332 2727 or visit here to make an appointment.