What are 'baby blues'?
After birth, a womans body experiences a significant change in hormone levels. Baby blues are extremely common after giving birth whilst a womans body transitions from pregnancy to the postnatal period. Symptoms involve feeling very tearful and emotional. These symptoms normally start approximately two days after birth and may last a few hours or up to several days. You may also experience anxious thoughts, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite, or irrational worries about motherhood.
It is helpful for you (and your friends and family) to remember that these feelings are usually temporary and will soon pass. No treatment is necessary for 'baby blues' beyond the support of friends and family. However, if your symptoms continue beyond the first week, you may need further help and support.
What is postnatal depression?
Approximately 1 in 10 mothers experience postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression is very distressing and hard to predict, Symptoms can start during the first week of giving birth or they may not start until several months later. They may occur gradually or very suddenly.
The symptoms of postnatal depression are similar to those of antenatal depression and this occasionally leads to confused and guilty feeling towards your new born baby. You may even become fearful of being left alone with your baby.
Women who experience antenatal depression are at increased risk of experiencing postnatal depression, but this is not inevitable. Once again, it is important to remember that this time in your life can be very stressful. It is normal to feel some of these symptoms some of the time. Nevertheless, your should still consider seeking help if you are experiencing persistent symptoms or your symptoms are worsening. Contact your midwife only if you are still under their care or alternatively contact your health visitor or GP.
What professional support and treatment is available?
Your GP and midwife/health visitor will ask you how you are coping, Use this opportunity to ask for their advice and support. If you find that you are are experiencing any mental health difficulties, contact them and arrange an appointment to discuss your symptoms. They will talk through your situation and discuss the different options available, including:
- increased professional visits/support
- local and national support groups and helplines
- counselling or therapy
- medication (there are national guidelines about which medications are safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding)
What can you do to help yourself?
There is no guaranteed way to prevent mental illness, but there are several things you can do which will decrease your risk including:
- be kind to yourself and realistic.
- do not set yourself too high expectations.
- make time for yourself.
- accept emotional support from those around you.
- accept practical support.
- get out and about, you and your baby need fresh air.
- visit parent and baby groups.
- sleep / exercise / healthy eating.
- it ok to have a 'pyjama day'.
Ways to cope
- talk to someone you trust about how you feel, such as a parent, sibling, partner or trusted friend.
- talk to your midwife or health visitor about how you feel
- keep active
- have a healthy diet
- find out about different ways to relax, such as yoga or meditation
- ask for help with things at home like chores and babysitting
- ask for support if you are worried about your baby
- find out how to change your thinking patterns
- discuss the possibility of counselling or medication with your GP
- keep a journal of your feeling through pregnancy and beyond