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Postpartum Depression: Signs, Symptoms & Support

Having a baby is a life changing event. No matter how many books you read or birth plans you write, nothing can really prepare you for all the emotions that coming roaring in once baby is born.

And as cliche as it sounds, postpartum life really can make you feel like you’re strapped into an emotional rollercoaster that you just can’t get off. The highest of highs when you experience such joy and love can sometimes be met by the lowest of lows – including depression.

What Is Postpartum Depression?

It is a type of depression commonly experienced by many women and birthing people after having a baby. It can feel very confusing and often involves a complex mix of emotional, physical and behavioural changes.

Who Can Experience It?

Both men and women can experience postpartum depression. Research has revealed that if a mama experiences depression, there is a 25-50% chance her partner will also experience it too.

How Common Is It?

It’s actually way more common than many people think. Let’s break down the figures.

There are circa 600,000 births in the UK each year. Research has shown that around 1 in 10 women who give birth will experience postpartum depression. This means that at least 60,000 women in the UK will experience postpartum depression each year. To give you a visual – that’s the equivalent of filling The O2 three times over.

When Does Postpartum Depression Start?

In women, depression often starts in the first few weeks after baby is born. However, it can also appear at any point in the first year after giving birth. It may start slowly, which can sometimes make it harder to recognise. Or it may come quite suddenly and hit you like a speed train.

In men, studies have suggested that men are more likely to experience postpartum depression when baby is around 3 to 6 months old.

What Are The Symptoms?

There are lots of different symptoms of postpartum depression. You may experience some or all of these to various degrees and symptoms may feel different on different days.

  • Depressed mood or severe mood swings
  • Excessive crying
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
  • Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
  • Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
  • Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
  • Intense irritability and anger
  • Fear that you’re not a good mother
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
  • Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Severe anxiety and panic attacks
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

I’m Scared To Talk About It With Anyone. What Should I Do?

Depression can be a lonely place, especially when your own thoughts can leave you feeling very confused and scared. But as difficult as it may seem, talking about your thoughts and feelings is actually the best way to deal with them.

Try and speak to someone you trust about how you feel. That person could be a partner, family member, friend, your midwife, health visitor or doctor. If you’re feeling nervous about seeking professional help, always remember that postpartum depression is something that your GP, midwife or health visitor are specifically trained to know about and help with.

If you don’t want to talk to someone you know, you could also speak to an anonymous person by using a helpline such as mind. There is also the option to email them for some advice too.

You can also refer yourself directly for counselling support by clicking here.

What Is The Treatment?

The treatment is very similar to other types of depression. The type of treatment will depend on a few factors, including what you want to do, your personal circumstances, as well as the nature and severity of the depression.

There are three main types of treatment:

  1. Self-help. This involves looking at your life and thinking about where you could improve things to make yourself feel better. Such as spending time with family and friends, finding a hobby you love, getting better sleep or introducing movement into your daily routine.
  2. Psychological help. This may include talking therapy, counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy.
  3. Medication. Anti-depressants can be really effective as a treatment for depression. Your doctor can also prescribe one that is safe for breastfeeding.

The treatment could be one of the above or it may be a combination of all three. It’s important to bear in mind that postpartum depression is temporary and treatable.

How Long Does It Last?

It’s not really possible to say how long postpartum depression will last as it will depend on each individual person. However, some research has suggested that when the depression has gone untreated, women were still reporting symptoms over three years later. And, in some cases, the symptoms had gotten worse over time.

What Other Support Is Available?

There is A LOT of support out there and so many people willing to help. Here are some fab organisations who have lots of information and support too.

The Association for Postnatal Illness can connect you to someone who has recovered from postnatal mental illness.

Family Action and Family Rights Group both offer a range of practical and emotional support for parents.

National Childbirth Trust offers information and support during pregnancy and early parenthood, including antenatal courses and local meet-ups.

PANDAS offers support to anyone experiencing perinatal mental health problems. They have a helpline, support groups and tips on self-care.

Birthbabe does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The resources on our website are provided for informational purposes only. You should always consult with a healthcare professional regarding any medical diagnoses or treatment options.


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