Thousands of women with postnatal depression are suffering in silence (PND)

We often believe being a new mother should be a joyous, although not easy, experience. The difficult emotions and physical changes in our bodies throughout pregnancy are often unexpected, which can lead to feelings of anxiety and low mood that we were not expecting.

The thought ‘NOT GOOD ENOUGH’ is often what drives PND

PND affects between 10 to 15 in every 100 women having a baby.

Lynne Murray, professor of psychology at the University of Reading, said: ‘Part of feeling depressed is that you feel guilty and you feel you’re a bad mother. ‘When you’ve had a baby, you probably have people coming up to you and saying, “Oh, it’s wonderful”, and expecting you to be on top of the world and functioning well. ‘If you’re not feeling great, because depression is associated with feeling guilty anyway and low self-esteem, then that coupled with people’s expectations that you should be functioning well can make you feel even worse.’ She said new mothers need to feel comfortable about seeking help if they find themselves suffering from postnatal depression.

Signs that you may be suffering PND

  • a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
  • loss of interest in the world around you and no longer enjoying things that used to give you pleasure
  • lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
  • feeling that you're unable to look after your baby
  • problems concentrating and making decisions
  • loss of appetite or an increased appetite (comfort eating)
  • feeling agitated, irritable or very apathetic (you "can't be bothered")
  • feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame
  • difficulty bonding with your baby with a feeling of indifference and no sense of enjoyment in his or her company
  • frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby; these can be scary, but they're very rarely acted upon
  • thinking about suicide / self harm

Ask a person you trust if they recognise the following symptoms in you

  • frequently crying for no obvious reason
  • having difficulty bonding with their baby, looking after them only as a duty and not wanting to play with them
  • withdrawing from contact with other people
  • speaking negatively all the time and claiming that they're hopeless
  • neglecting themselves, such as not washing or changing their clothes
  • losing all sense of time, such as being unaware whether 10 minutes or two hours have passed
  • losing their sense of humour
  • constantly worrying that something is wrong with their baby, regardless of reassurance

Postpartum (puerperal) psychosis

This is the most severe type of mental illness that happens after having a baby. It affects around 1 in 1000 women and starts within days or weeks of childbirth.  It can develop in a few hours and can be life-threatening, so needs urgent treatment.

There are many symptoms that may occur.  Your mood may be high or low and there are often rapid mood swings. Women often experience psychotic symptoms. They may believe things that are not true (delusions) or see or hear things that are not there (hallucinations).

This illness always needs medical help and support. You may have to go into hospital. Ideally, this should be to a specialist mother and baby unit where your baby can go with you.

Women who have had previous episodes of severe mental illness, particularly bipolar disorder, are at a high risk of postpartum psychosis. Women, who have had a severe episode of illness following a previous delivery, are also at very high risk. Let your doctor or midwife know about this. You can discuss with them ways to increase the chances of you staying well. Although puerperal psychosis is a serious condition, the sooner you seek help the sooner you will feel better.

You don’t have to feel this way…

I can help you to see how some of your ways of thinking and behaving may be making you depressed. You can learn to change these thoughts which has a positive effect on other symptoms. CBT psychotherapy is recognised as a highly effective therapy to overcome PND. If helpful, we can work using CBT along with mixing in my role as a relationship counsellor; which can help you to understand the depression in terms of your relationships or what has happened to you in the past.