Postnatal depression | A treatment guide

postnatal depression

According to studies, one out of seven women who give birth are affected by postnatal depression. If you experience this kind of depression, your functioning ability might be significantly affected, and it can cause health risks to mother and child. This guide should help you learn a little more about postnatal depression and its treatment.

What is postnatal depression?

Sometimes called postpartum, postnatal refers to the immediate period following childbirth. If a new mum has substantial depression symptoms, she is regarded as having postnatal depression. Unlike the ‘baby blues’ that usually go away within a week or two, postnatal depression is different. The condition occurs at any time in the first few months after childbirth. Mothers who have this illness may feel hopeless, sad and at times worthless or guilty. In some situations, the new mum might feel overwhelmed by the needs of her child, and get extremely anxious. As a result, the mother might persistently have disturbing thoughts about her baby and compulsive, repetitive actions such as continually monitoring the baby’s progress.

Postnatal causes

A mother is more likely to have postnatal depression if she:

  • Has had postnatal depression before or during pregnancy
  • Is in a troubled relationship
  • Doesn’t have many family members or friends supporting her
  • Has been under a lot of stress recently
  • Is struggling to take care of her baby; for example if the baby has medical or developmental difficulties
  • is a teenage or young mum 
  • has an unstable financial background

Symptoms

You will know someone may have postnatal depression if you notice the following:

  • The woman feels disheartened and often tearful
  • She feels anxious, and at times has an obsession with the baby’s welfare
  • Feels hopeless, guilty or worthless
  • Feels irritable
  • The mum has sleeping difficulties
  • Unrealistic changes in appetite such as over eating, under eating or an unusual relationship with food
  • Has problems providing the basic care for herself and her baby

Treatment

If you or someone you know is suffering from postnatal depression, consider getting treatment as soon as possible. This condition is treated differently based on the seriousness of the symptoms and the type of disorder. You may be offered medication, counselling or psychotherapy, alongside advice on healthy eating, exercise and support groups.

Antidepressants

Consult with your doctor before starting treatment. The doctor may prescribe antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s). These generally have fewer side effects than other antidepressants, and many are considered safe to use when breastfeeding.

Consider your thyroid

In some people, depression can be a symptom of your thyroid hormone level being too low. A simple blood test can confirm this, and if you are found to be suffering with hypothyroidism, medication can help to control your symptoms.

Apart from seeking medical help, there are several things you can do to help cope with postnatal depression. Although getting treatment and advice from a healthcare professional should always be your first step, you need to be patient as it can take some time before regaining your old self. Make sure you have a support network in place, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

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