mother holding newborn babyThe perinatal period is during pregnancy, childbirth and the post natal year.

Pregnancy and the period after childbirth can bring about a range of emotional changes for the mother, the father and other members of the family.  Many find this to be a positive experience.  However, some undergo an emotional upheaval that can result in mental health problems.

The Baby Blues

Following the first week after giving birth some Mums may find themselves weepy and irritable. This is known as the baby blues and is experienced by many women. Symptoms include feeling emotional and irrational, bursting into tears for no reason and feelings of depression and anxiety. It is caused by hormonal and emotional changes following having a baby, as well as adjusting to new demands and routines while feeling sleep deprived. You should feel better without any treatment by the time your baby is around 2 weeks old. If you continue to feel this way some week after the birth it may be a sign you are experiencing postnatal depression.

What is Post Natal Depression?

The symptoms of post natal depression are similar to any other depression and it can develop within the first six weeks of giving birth although it is often not apparent until around six months. Postnatal depression can sometimes go unnoticed and many women are unaware they have it, even though they don’t feel quite right. It may be more common than many people realise, affecting around one in 10 women after having a baby.

Signs and Symptoms

The biggest thing you may notice is the emotional changes; you may be feeling sad, irritable and notice yourself crying. You may experience sleep disturbance, changes to your appetite and feelings of tension in your body. Your thoughts may be particularly negative and you might notice yourself being critical of yourself and those around you as well as worrying a lot. There may be changes to your behaviours, it might be that you are avoiding seeing people, not doing the things you enjoy and avoiding housework or trying to do too much.

Causes of Post Natal Depression

The causes of Postnatal Depression are not clear and it is thought to be a combination of things, rather than just one:

  • Biological changes – Childbirth brings with it hormonal changes in your body and postnatal depression may be linked to these.
  • Physical changes – Giving birth can be exhausting and recovering from this is not always easy as you have a demanding infant to care for, possibly as well as other children, and are not getting enough sleep. Your appetite may also be affected and you may not be eating and drinking enough and feeling run down. Your body and shape can change following having a baby which can make women feel less confident.
  • Social and Relationships – Caring for a new-born can make it difficult to see friends and have an active social life and similarly if you do not have close family members a new mother can feel quite isolated. Also having a new baby can put a strain on your relationship with your partner as you adapt to the new changes.
  • Expectations – Often television and magazines tell us that having a baby is a wonderful experience and whilst it can be, they do not talk about the more difficult parts. Women don’t always feel the way that they thought they would when they give birth and this can lead to them feeling low. Women often expect motherhood to be a “perfect” time that they will manage well and everything will run smoothly. In far giving birth is stressful and becoming a mother is a new role that we have to learn and adapt to, like anything else in life.

Treating Post Natal Depression

Postnatal depression can be distressing and frightening however, there are effective treatments available to help you recover. The earlier you recognise and seek help for post natal depression the better so please contact your GP, Health Visitor or local IAPT.

Treatment for postnatal depression includes:

  • self-help advice
  • talking therapies through IAPT
  • antidepressant medication from your GP

Preventing Post Natal Depression

To try to prevent post natal depression, tell your GP about any previous depression you’ve had or if you have felt very low or anxious during your pregnancy. Keeping your GP informed will ensure they’re aware of the possibility of post natal depression developing after your baby is born. This will help prevent a delay in diagnosis and allow treatment to begin earlier. In the early stages, post natal depression can be easy to miss.

If you are currently in the perinatal stage and feel you may be suffering from mental health problems, we strongly suggest that you make an appointment with your GP.

In the meantime try using one of our self-assessment tools or seek out more detailed information from the links below:

Useful Contacts

Children’s Centre’s are a government led programme designed to give every child the best start in life. They run a number of groups, classes and provide a range of support for parents and children.

Home Start UK, support families with children under five year olds. A trained volunteer can come and visit you each week for a couple of hours and offer practical and emotional support.

Telephone   01302 340856   email   website

Cry-Sis, a charity offering support for families with excessively crying, sleepless and demanding babies.

Telephone  08451 228669   email   website

Gingerbread are a leading support organisation for lone parent families in England and Wales

Telephone   0800 018 4318   email                                       website

La Leche League GB offer support and advice about breastfeeding

Telephone   0845 456 1855   email   website

National Childbirth Trust offers support in pregnancy, childbirth and early parenthood

Telephone   0870 444 8707   email   website