Written By Caroline Meyer
You look forward to your baby and can’t wait for him or her to arrive. Then a day or two after having the little one, you feel overwhelmed. You’re exhausted, sleep deprived and anxious about making a happy life for your new baby. You feel depressed, you start having mood swings, and you feel teary all the time. This is quite common for new mums and is known as “baby blues”.
BABY BLUES OR PND?
Most women will experience some “baby blues” symptoms. This is due to the drop-in hormones after delivery combined with anxiety and stress, lack of sleep, exhaustion and feeling isolated and alone. New mums may feel overwhelmed and overcome with emotions and may be a lot most teary than usual. Baby blues usually kick in within a couple of days after delivery. They tend to last a week or two and are usually over by the end of week two. Baby blues are considered normal and generally no cause for concern. If the baby blues due not subside by the end of the second week or the symptoms seem to become more severe, you may be suffering from postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression is a lot more serious than “baby blues” and treatment is needed in most cases. PND can start off looking like baby blues and usually starts with sadness, insomnia, mood swings and irritability, in the same way as baby blues. With PND, the symptoms escalate and can even lead to thoughts of self-harm or harming others. PND is also a lot longer lasting than baby blues.
PND can result in a failure to bond with your baby and you may even withdraw from your partner. You may experience extreme anxiety and disturbances in your sleep patterns. You may not eat properly and can suffer from digestive upsets. You may feel worthless and suffer from guilt. You may find yourself have dark moods and thinking or talking about death. These are serious symptoms and PND should not be left untreated.
There is no specific formula for determining whether or not a mum will develop postnatal depression or not. There are many risk factors and interrelated causes that may contribute to why some women develop PND while others don’t.
After the birth of a child, a woman experiences a steep drop in progesterone and oestrogen, back to the levels they were pre-pregnancy. There are also drops in other hormones that affect the thyroid which may result in added fatigue and potentially depression. There is also a drop-in blood pressure and a lower immune response and the metabolic rate also has to stabilise. This can all affect new mother’s triggering PND.
As well as the emotional changes after birth, there are also physical changes to deal with. This can include cuts and tears depending on the birth itself, physical pain, the added weight that takes some time to lose after the birth and insecurity based on how the mum sees herself in terms of how attractive she is after the birth. For some women this can be overwhelming, which can lead to PND.
Anxiety and Stress:
Sleep deprivation and the stress of taking care of a new-born, especially if there are problems with breastfeeding or bonding can create intense anxiety. This is especially true for new mums. This can also contribute towards postnatal depression.
History of Depression:
Mums with a previous history of depression or who have parents that have suffered from depression are at an increased risk of PND. Women who have had PND in the past have a 50% risk of developing it again in subsequent pregnancies. Other mental illness in the past can also predispose a woman to developing PND postpartum.
A lack of physical and emotional support is a big factor as well as having problems in a relationship can be a risk factor for PND. Lack of support from family and friends, a limited social circle and financial concerns may increase the chance of becoming depressed after the birth of a child. Women who stop taking medication due to pregnancy may also be at greater risk.
A more intense form of PND is known as postpartum psychosis. This is very rare, but it is a serious disorder than can affect women after the birth of a child. Postpartum psychosis generally requires hospitalisation as the mum may potentially harm herself or her baby. This mental illness can develop within the first 2 days to 2 weeks after giving birth. Symptoms include delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, extreme anxiety and agitation, rapid mood swings, strange behaviours, confusion, insomnia, disorientation, refusal to sleep or eat, suicidal thoughts or behaviours, thoughts of harming or killing the baby. Postpartum psychosis is considered to be a medical emergency. Women with Postpartum psychosis should be given immediate medical attention and interventions.
While “baby blues” may feel awful while you are experiencing them, they should pass fairly rapidly and you should go back to normal and be able to enjoy raising your new baby. If the baby blues do not pass and you find the symptoms getting worse or you start having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby at any time, speak out so you can get the help you need.