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Mind

The lowdown on postnatal depression

Up to one in five women experience mental health problems in pregnancy or the first year after childbirth.

But do you know what to look out for and how to get help?

Mental health in pregnancy

Pregnancy is a really exciting time, but also full of challenges. So, it’s not surprising that women can feel vulnerable, anxious and a mix of emotional highs and lows. These feelings can be triggered by a hormone imbalance, worries over how you’ll cope, financial or relationship stress, pregnancy sickness or tiredness.

Some women can even develop mental health problems, like antenatal depression, during pregnancy. This may be more likely to occur if you have a history of depression or if you’ve stopped taking antidepressants because you’re pregnant.

It’s important to let your midwife or GP know if you’ve suffered previously, so they can talk to you about how this might affect you during pregnancy or after the birth.

Postnatal depression

Depression after you’ve given birth is known as postnatal depression. This can start any time in the first year after your baby is born. In fact, one in ten new mums can be affected.

Feeling anxious or tearful in the first few days after birth is common. It’s often called the ‘baby blues’ and doesn’t tend to last more than a couple of weeks. If symptoms last longer – or start later ­– it could be postnatal depression.

But it’s not just new mums who suffer. Dads can be affected by postnatal depression, too, so it’s worth being aware and watching out for the signs.

What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?

These are some of the signs to look out for, which may point towards the condition:

  • Feeling sad and low mood

  • Negative thoughts about yourself

  • Trouble sleeping

  • A lack of interest in doing things you enjoyed previously

  • Loss of appetite

  • Feelings of self-blame

  • Difficulty bonding with your baby

How do you know if you have postnatal depression?

If you’re worried that you’ve experienced some of these symptoms, talking to someone is your first step to recovery. This NHS tool is also a good place to start.

Speak to your midwife, health visitor or GP as soon as you can - the earlier it’s diagnosed and treated, the sooner you’ll feel better. They will want to find out a bit more about your symptoms so they can help you get the right treatment and support.

Benenden Health members also have access to our 24/7 Mental Health Helpline – this can be helpful for talking through worries and concerns.

What treatment might you be offered?

The range of mental health problems during pregnancy and after birth are the same as at any other time. But the treatments may be different, so they don’t affect your baby. There are two main treatment routes:

  • Psychological therapy – this can be talking with a therapist, like cognitive behavioural therapy, or working through a computer programme, app or book

  • Medication ­– your GP will prescribe a dose that is safe for you and your baby

What can you do to help yourself?

As well as getting help from the professionals, there are a few things you can try to help ease your symptoms:

  • Talk to your family, partner and friends about your feelings

  • Accept help, try not to take too much on

  • Enjoy some ‘me time’, even if this just means having a bath or reading

  • Rest when you can

  • Do some exercise – it has proven benefits for mental wellbeing

  • Eat as healthily as you can, try not to miss meals

  • Avoid alcohol and drugs

Find out more

If you’re concerned about any potential symptoms, you can make an appointment to see your GP. Alternatively, if you are a Benenden Health member, you can call our helpline for medical advice from a qualified UK-based GP or therapist, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Learn more about GP 24/7 or our Mental Health Helpline.

This article has been brought to you using public health information freely available online (click the links below for more information). Benenden Health has not provided any direct medical advice within this article. Please consult the sources provided if you would like further information or support.

www.tommys.org

https://www.nct.org.uk

https://www.nhs.uk

https://www.nice.org.uk