Postnatal Depression

Aware NI

Postnatal depression (PND) is an illness that can affect a woman following the birth of her child. It is also not uncommon for this illness to affect fathers. About one third of mothers will have developed the symptoms of depression during pregnancy. These symptoms include tiredness, anxiety and irritability.

 

But with PND, there may not be strong feelings of sadness or unhappiness. This may mean that those affected don’t seek help as they believe it is the result of sleep loss and coping with the demands of a new baby.

 

Is PND different from the 'baby blues?'

The ‘baby blues’ are experienced by about half of all women following the birth of a child. It usually starts on the third day after birth. Symptoms include feeling tearful and/or irritable for little or no reason. These are due to hormonal changes and for most women last only one or two days but no longer than 10 days. PND generally starts a few weeks after the birth and lasts longer.

 

Who’s at risk of developing PND?

You are more likely to have PND if you previously had mental health problems, including depression or anxiety during pregnancy, have little support from family or friends or had a recent stressful event e.g. bereavement, relationship ending or losing a job. You will also be more susceptible if you have current issues in your life such as relationship or financial problems.

 

How does PND affect someone?

You may have some or all of the following symptoms:

Feeling really anxious – most mothers worry about their baby. If you have PND, the worry can be overwhelming. You may worry that your baby is ill, not putting on weight, crying too much or even worry about harming your baby

You may worry that you have a physical illness or that you will never get better Irritability - with your partner, baby or other children


Tiredness – all new mothers get tired but depression can make you feel exhausted and lacking in energy


Unhappiness/sadness - feeling worse at certain times of the day


Sleeplessness - unable to fall asleep despite tiredness. Lying awake worrying or waking during the night even when your baby is asleep. Waking too early, before your baby


Appetite changes – poor appetite, forgetting to eat or eating for comfort and then feeling guilty


Loss of enjoyment – not enjoying or interested in anything, even your baby Loss of interest in sex Negative and guilty thoughts – e.g. ‘I’m a bad mother’, ‘I can’t cope’ ‘I don’t love my baby’ leading to loss of confidence and feelings of guilt.


The number and severity of symptoms will determine whether the depression is diagnosed as mild, moderate or severe. A very small number of women with severe depression develop psychotic symptoms. They may hear voices and have unusual beliefs. If you feel this is happening to you, seek help from your GP right away. This is very treatable and everything will be done to ensure you and your baby can stay together.

 

What helps for postnatal depression?

Mild PND may get better with time and good support but you should still see your GP or health visitor so that the symptoms can be monitored. They can help you decide if you do need treatment and which is right for you. The three main types of help are:

Talking therapies (psychotherapies) - Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) has been proven very effective for mild/moderate depression and in preventing relapse. It works on the basis that if we change our unhelpful thinking patterns and behaviour it will improve how we feel. However, if waiting lists are long there are lots of excellent self-help books, many of them based on CBT. Other types of therapy and counselling are also available.

Medication - Anti-depressants are effective in treating moderate/severe depression. They are not addictive and have few serious side effects. However, some are safer than others if you are breastfeeding or pregnant. Ask your GP for advice.

Self-help strategies - When we’re depressed, we tend to do less because of the tiredness, difficulty sleeping/eating, and negative thinking. We often stop doing things we used to enjoy. It can get so bad that we can't do daily tasks or go to work. We stay in bed or stay at home doing very little and isolate ourselves from friends and family. Increasing our activity levels can make a big impact on our mood but it's important to get a balance of activities which give you a sense of closeness for example talking to friends or family or going to a parent and toddler group. Do things that you will enjoy like going for a walk, reading or listening to music.

Useful resources

Hospital Chaplains within the Western Trust have committed to support and pray for the...
Let us care for you, as you care for others. Could you benefit from confidential support...
Inspire Workplaces is an independent service offering free, confidential and immediate...
Do you need health care support to help you remain in, or return back to the workplace?...
These five directories list the names, numbers and web addresses (where applicable) of...
INSPIRE Workplaces have created a new digital Support Hub with online wellbeing support...
Western Health and Social Care Trust is a member of Employers for Disability NI (EFDNI)...
Tailored activities to support positive mental health and emotional wellbeing. MensSana,...
The AWARE Mood Matters in the Workplace programme is a mental health awareness programme...
Free access to eBooks, audiobooks and eMagazines - available to download on your device...
The aim of the Befriending service is a volunteer-led service and the aim of the service...
Self-management programmes that teach skills to manage all aspects of living with a long...
This takes place with a psychologist usually in a clinical setting (e.g. hospital)...
Be Mindful is an online course that uses mindfulness techniques like meditation,...
Our team of facilitators have extensive knowledge and experience in the field of Mental...
AMH Works provides quality Mental Health training programmes and consultancy for...
Hypnotherapy is the use of hypnosis for the treatment and alleviation of a variety of...
We’ve gathered useful advice, information and help for young people aged 8-25 and those...
This programme is a six week training programme for groups of adults and focuses on...
This idea is a walk in the park. It really is that simple, post a news item to see how...
Anxiety UK’s online support groups offer a safe space for people to share experiences,...
The groups provide an opportunity to connect with others who share similar experiences,...
This is a six-session programme using Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) concepts – the...
At AMH New Horizons we support the recovery of adults experiencing mental ill health who...
A project for men aged 50+ to share skills, socialise and connect with their wider...
Counselling sessions can often last for longer than the standard 12 sessions offered with...
From books and magazines to local history resources, Libraries NI has a host of fabulous...
The Community Care and Support Service is open to individuals over the age of 18 years...
Bloom is a UK-wide programme which supports young people’s mental health resilience,...
Advanced Diploma in Mental Health and Wellbeing Coaching This virtual training programme...
Compassion focused therapy (CFT), developed by Professor Paul Gilbert OBE, is a...
Sourcing and supporting employment opportunities, training and/or voluntary placements...
There are a number of health campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness of...
Mood Matters for Adults is delivered to the general adult population, including those...
Anxiety UK and the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) are working together to provide...
AMH New Life Counselling is a professionally accredited counselling service and part of...
This includes: Raising awareness of depression and Aware NI services at a wide range of...
AMH EveryBODY aims to promote greater understanding and awareness of eating disorders. We...
Support to resist self-harm
What's Up? can help you cope with anxiety, stress and feelings of depression. It has...
Self-Help for Anxiety Management (SAM) offers a range of self-help methods to help you...
Personalised Exercise Plans
Active 10 is a free and easy to use walking app that tracks your walking and shows you...
Clear Fear is an app developed for teenage mental health charity Stem4 which uses the...
Fabulous! Is a motivational app that uses challenges to help build physically and...
Handle stress and anxiety on the go
Moodpath: Depression and Anxiety is a written mood journal that uses progress reports and...
Guided meditations
MoodMission helps you learn new and better ways of coping with low moods and anxiety...
It’s an easy to follow programme known the world over, and perfect for those new to...
Guided meditations
Learn to manage negative thoughts and look at problems differently
Is anxiety getting in the way of your life? MindShift uses scientifically proven...
SuperBetter is a tool created by game designers to help you build resilience and get...
Check if you are at risk of depression
Check your mood

Helplines & Web Chats

Samaritans
Action Mental Health
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Aware NI - Support Groups
Aware NI - Online Support Groups
Mind - Side by Side Online Community