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May 1st, 2019

Baby blues or Postnatal depression? - When to seek help

By Ms Susi Curzons (Assistant psychologist)

  • Depression
  • Family
  • Happiness
  • Life Changes
  • Perinatal mental health
  • Stress

For one reason or another, many women experience what is frequently referred to as ‘baby blues’ within the first few of weeks of giving birth. At a time when you’re supposed to be delighted with a new addition to your family, sometimes it can feel very overwhelming, and not at all like we expected. In general, these feelings are normal and can be attributed to the extreme hormonal and chemical changes in our bodies within the first few days of giving birth. It is also important to be aware of the psychosocial factors which may be contributing to these mood changes, such as the shock of the suddenly increased responsibility that comes with giving birth, a disruption to routine, and exhaustion. It can often feel like being thrown in at the deep end.

When experiencing the baby blues, you may feel a whole host of ways such as emotional, irrational, tearful, irritable, down or anxious without any exact reason. Research suggests that anywhere up to 80% of women may feel this way, and usually the symptoms get better within 10-14 days postpartum. Whilst this is completely normal, it is important to be aware of the usual course of these symptoms. Usually, if these symptoms persist, worsen, or you start to experience any of the following (talking faster than usual, a decreased need for sleep, desire to take on a big project, or racing thoughts) this could be a sign of a more serious postnatal illness.

If you are suffering with the baby blues, it is important to try and be kind to yourself, not to worry, and importantly look after yourself. Try and get rest when you can and try and do things that you enjoy, things that you did before you had a baby. Reach out to family or friends for help, talking about how you are feeling and having practical help can allow you extra resource. It can also be important to set boundaries for when you need some alone time. For example, for some it can overwhelming to receive a lot of visitors in such a short space of time shortly after having a baby. It is ok to say no, and be open and honest with friends and relatives about needing your space to recover and adjust.

It’s important to note that perinatal depression is different from the baby blues as it persists for an extended period of time and can gradually increase in intensity. It can start any time from conception right through to the first year of giving birth, most frequently occurring postnatally and it can affect up to one in every seven women.

There are a number of signs and symptoms associated with postnatal depression and you should speak to someone you trust such as a friend or family member, or your GP, midwife or health visitor if you are experiencing the following: a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world lack of energy and feeling tired all the time trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day difficulty bonding with your baby withdrawing from contact with other people problems concentrating and making decisions frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby

It is important to remember that if you think that yourself or your partner may be experiencing postnatal depression not to suffer in silence, hoping the problem will resolve itself. There is an array of help and treatment available and experiencing this does not make you a bad person or parent. The biggest fear for people when accessing help is the worry that their child will be taken away, however this is very uncommon and your health visitor is there to support you. By getting the help you need, you are ensuring the best care for yourself and the best start in life for your baby.

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