Postnatal Depression: Everything You Need To Know
If you’ve been feeling low for a prolonged period of time after the birth of your baby, you could have postnatal depression. This is a type of depression that, not only mothers but fathers and partners can experience too. Unfortunately, postnatal depression often goes unreported and many suffer in silence. The charity Mind reports that a shocking 30% of new mums with perinatal mental health problems have never talked about it to a doctor or specialist. And, according to NCT, 10-20% of new parents have depression and anxiety after birth – that’s a significant number.
To raise awareness of the illness and the help that’s available, we sat down with one of our Consultant Psychiatrists, Dr Rafael Euba, to ask him some of the most common questions about postnatal depression.
“No matter how prepared you are, having a baby is a huge change to your life. Your body is adjusting to the trauma of birth, you’re getting much less sleep that you’re used to, and hormones are adjusting. In the first few days after birth, over half of mothers have what is known as the ‘baby blues’ which normally only lasts a few weeks. The baby blues can make you feel teary and emotional; it is thought to be caused by the hormones in the body changing after you’ve given birth.
“If you’re feeling low for more than a few weeks you could have postnatal depression, also known as postpartum depression. If the feelings continue for a prolonged period, it’s time to see your GP or a specialist for some support and treatment. Although timing varies between individuals, postnatal depression can start any time after the baby blues up to a year post-birth and is often (though not always) accompanied by anxiety.”
The London Psychiatry Centre offers private treatment for postnatal depression in London without the wait. Find out more on our website or call the clinic on 020 7580 4224 to ask any questions or book an initial consultation.
What is postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that parents can experience after the birth of their baby, making them feel detached from their newborn and making it difficult to bond. It is different to the baby blues, which only lasts a few weeks, and can start any time in the first year after birth (but usually after the baby blues period); it can also last much longer.
“Postnatal depression is not a weakness, and it’s not your fault – it’s an illness. Getting treatment quickly can mean you’re still able to bond with your baby.” explains Dr Euba.
What causes postnatal depression?
According to the Mental Health Foundation, it is thought that postnatal depression might be caused by a combination of biological factors like hormones and genetics, and that psychosocial factors like stress and personal vulnerabilities can contribute.
“I would strongly agree that factors like stress or trauma can be a catalyst for the illness. In my years of experience treating patients I have seen time and time again how an incident like a distressing birth can trigger postnatal depression in a parent. However, that being said, sometimes it is the case that there is no clear cause or trigger.” says Dr Euba.
How long does postnatal depression last?
Postnatal depression can be a long-term problem. A longitudinal study in the Harvard Medical Journal, which looked at the findings of postnatal depression research (1985-2012), found that more than a third of women with postnatal depression experienced chronic symptoms. Half the women undergoing treatment were still receiving it a year after birth and a third were still depressed three years after birth.
Dr Euba adds: “It is unlikely that postnatal depression will improve without intervention, and so taking action to get treatment as early as possible can help to focus on what’s important – bonding with your baby.”
How can you prevent postpartum depression?
“There isn’t anything that you can do to prevent postnatal depression, but all parents-to-be can prepare for the potential that it may affect them.
“Establishing a good support network of family and friends before birth, along with maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise and social calendar – whether that’s baby groups or coffee with friends – will be beneficial, as will familiarising yourself with the symptoms of postnatal depression so you can seek treatment if needed.” explains Dr Euba.
What are the signs of postnatal depression?
There’s a lot of pressure to feel like having a baby is one of the happiest times of your life. It is quite normal for new parents to experience a wide range of emotions, including fear and excitement, but it’s also common to experience anxiety and depression.
Similar to depression at other times of life, symptoms of postnatal depression can include feeling low and withdrawn and unable to concentrate. You might feel detached from your baby, have difficulty bonding and feel like you’re missing out on motherhood or fatherhood. It can feel difficult to work out what your baby needs and you may feel like you don’t love them and feel guilty because of this.
Tiredness and feelings of worthlessness are also symptoms of postpartum depression, as are feeling teary, sleep problems, anger and irritability, changes to diet like overeating, and lowered sex drive. Some mothers experience thoughts about harming their baby and/or themselves, although this is much less common.
Postnatal depression can develop gradually and as such, it can be difficult to realise if you have symptoms. It’s never too late to get help. Once you do recognise the signs, it’s important that you seek help from your GP, health visitor or a mental health specialist at the soonest possible opportunity as symptoms can get worse if left untreated and could impact your relationship with your baby, your partner and your family at a time where support is incredibly important. It can also influence your child’s development.
In rare cases some women experience postpartum psychosis, which can start within hours of birth and can involve seeing or hearing things that are not there. Immediate medical attention should be sought in this instance.
Am I at risk of postnatal depression?
Anyone can develop postnatal depression after birth. However, some recent research has suggested that a woman’s chance of developing postnatal depression rises by 79% if she has a boy, when compared to girls.
You can’t know if you will get postnatal depression or not but studies have shown there are certain factors that can increase your risk of getting it. These include having a family history of depression or postnatal depression, having antenatal anxiety, low social support and having experienced traumatic life events.
What treatment is there for postnatal depression?
There are two main approaches to treating postnatal depression: Talking therapies and medication.
Talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be useful in providing patients with techniques for managing their symptoms, but there are often long waiting lists for this type of treatment when going through your GP.
Another treatment method that is often prescribed for postnatal depression is antidepressants which some people find very effective, but they are not without side effects and have potential risks for the foetus.
At The London Psychiatry Centre we also offer a highly effective non-invasive drug-free treatment for depression called repetitive Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (rTMS). rTMS is free from side effects and is safe for use during pregnancy and after birth – you can find out more about our impressive success rates here.
The good news is that with the right treatment and support, most women will make a full recovery.
If you’re experiencing signs of postnatal depression and would like effective treatment without the wait, please don’t hesitate to call our admin team on 020 7580 4224 if you have any questions or if you would like to book a consultation.