Having a baby can be an exciting and joyful experience. However, it can prove challenging and stressful for many parents. Indeed almost two thirds of new parents can experience persistent feelings of anxiety, irritability and low mood that might lead to postnatal depression. Postnatal depression is a type of depression that can affect many parents after the birth of a baby. Although postnatal depression is most common in women during or after pregnancy, it can also affect fathers and partners.
Postnatal depression is not the same as ‘baby blues’. Baby blues (e.g., tearfulness, anxiety, feeling a bit down) is a normal experience that many women go through in the first week after giving birth and these symptoms last no more than two weeks. On the contrary, postnatal depression occurs two to eight weeks after giving birth, sometimes without a warning, and can last considerably longer.
If you or your partner suffer from postnatal depression, you are likely to experience some or most of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty creating a bond with your baby (boredom, indifference and/or frustration towards your baby)
- Disturbed sleep such as trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day (in addition to disruption from night feeds)
- Excessive worry about your health and your baby’s health
- Feeling you can’t cope with the baby
- Frightening and disturbing thoughts, such as hurting your baby
- Lack of energy and feeling exhausted all the time
- Loss of enjoyment and interest in the wider world
- Persistent sadness and low mood
- Poor appetite
- Poor concentration and decision making
- Self-blame, feelings of guilt and shame
- Suicidal thoughts
- Withdrawing from others and isolating yourself
It is vital to ask for help as soon as possible if you think you might suffer from postnatal depression. Postnatal depression could last for months and/or worsen and impact significantly not only on you but also your baby and your family.