The first few months of having a baby in your life will bring a swarm of emotions. The new mothers especially are often unprepared for the physical impact of childbirth, and yet motherhood has further shocks in store.

People expect that having a baby is going to be a source of happiness, and of course it is, and should be. But as a new mother you may be very far from feeling this straight away, and this can bring with it a large amount of anxiety. You may go through a short period of feeling emotional and tearful, which may be brief and manageable (known as ‘baby blues’), or you may develop deeper and longer-term depression known as post-natal depression.

At least one 1 out of 10 mothers will go through post natal depression. This usually occurs in the first 3 months after child birth. It can range from being relatively mild to very hard-hitting.

What are the minor symptoms of depression?

You may go through one or more of the following experiences, although it’s extremely unlikely that you will go through all of them.

  • Feeling very low, thinking that nothing is any good
  • Feeling tired and very lethargic
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Feeling guilty about not coping, or about not loving the baby enough
  • Being irritable, wanting to cry for simply things
  • Losing your appetite
  • Loss of sleep – either through not being able to fall asleep, waking up early or having vivid nightmares

It is likely that these mild symptoms will vanish as time passes by.

When are the more serious symptoms?

  • Being hostile to your baby
  • Physical symptoms like stomach pains, headaches, and blurred vision
  • Obsessive fears about the baby’s health or well-being
  • Obsessive fears about yourself and others members of the family
  • Thoughts about death
  • Thoughts of feeling out of control and when you think you are going mad

How is Post Natal Depression Diagnosed?

This is mainly assessed by your doctor who will go through a series of questions and answers that will help the doctor assess your mental stability.

Who is at risk of getting post natal depression?

Though it is normal to have mild mood swings during the first few months, things can get serious for some mothers.

Those who are mainly at risk include;

  • Mothers with a family history of psychiatric illness
  • Some mothers that have a difficult labour with a long painful delivery or unplanned caesarean section or emergancy treatment, you could be at risk
  • Mothers that lack support from their family members could feel pressured during the onset of child care that could lead to feeling alone and at risk of harming oneself and the baby

It is also said that due to the hormonal changes a mother can get depression as the hormones oestrogen and progesterone affect our emotions.

Dealing with Post Natal Depression

Post natal depression usually gets better in time, although it may take up to a year to fully recover. Love, support and nurturing from family, friends and community is vital in helping a mother cope in this illness. If not treated post natal depression can have a negative effect on bonding between mother and the baby.

Most mothers suffering from this will feel that it is important to feel understood and supported. A sympathetic listener, who can hear about your feelings and worries without judging, can bring enormous relief.

One of the most helpful things is to talk to other mothers and fathers – it can be very reassuring to find that all new parents share the same anxieties and frustrations.

Additional help with child care may be needed if you are suffering from this illness. An option for treatment is physical activity such as taking a walk in the park, taking part in a sport and so on.