After having a baby, changes in your hormone levels may cause you to feel tearful, irritable, depressed and tired. You may find you are very tired from looking after baby around the clock especially if you have older children.
Between three and five days after your baby’s birth, you may experience mild depression, feel tense, or tearful for no particular reason. This is common and often known as the ‘baby blues’. It is caused by postnatal hormone changes. It usually lasts for a few days and does not need treatment.
Often mothers suffer in silence thinking they are a ‘bad mother’ and feel they have to cope. Most do not realise they are depressed. Postnatal depression is an illness which can be treated.
The good thing is that these feelings are not here to stay. You will get better gradually with the correct help.
Postnatal depression affects about one in ten mothers, and can occur at anytime during the first year. The risk is greater for mothers who have had severe ‘baby blues’, who have suffered from depression in the past, who do not have good support, or who have experienced a recent stressful event such as a trauma, bereavement or illness.
Mothers with postnatal depression often experience feelings of hopelessness and inadequacy that do not seem to improve. Some women may feel angry and irritated and do not understand why, others may feel tearful, alone, guilty and unsupported. Each woman’s experience of postnatal depression is different. Cultural background may also affect a woman’s experience of postnatal depression.
How do you know if you have postnatal depression?
One way is to ask yourself if any of the following describe how you are feeling:
If you think some of the above points sound as you are feeling a lot of the time, you may like to get support and help from your doctor, or other health professionals
Some suggestions that may help you to cope with postnatal depression:
Discuss with your doctor your options for care and possible medication for the illness.
Some mothers fall in love with their babies immediately, but for others it takes a little longer. Both responses are normal. Maternal feelings grow as you get to know your baby.
Feelings of anxiety, irritability, having difficulty sleeping and a reduced appetite may occur before starting to feel depressed.
If you are worried about your feelings towards your baby, or fear that you or your partner might harm the baby, seek help at once. Talk to your midwife or other health professional. They will understand and can help you.
NEVER shake or smack your baby – if you feel you might harm your baby put her in a safe place and walk away for a short time.