Postnatal depression, or PND for short, is a very common illness that affects between 10 to 15 in every 100 women having a baby. The symptoms are similar to those in depression at other times, but there are some differences related to being a new mum, worries about your baby's health and wellbeing and being able to cope.
•Feeling low, unhappy or tearful for much or all of the time
•Feeling irritable or angry with your partner, baby or other children
•Feeling utterly exhausted and lacking energy
•Despite your tiredness, you may have insomnia and lie there worrying about things throughout the night
•You may lose your appetite, ability to enjoy things and interest in sex
•You might have guilty or negative thoughts
•And you may feel anxious, worrying about your baby's health or whether you are doing a good job as a mother.
As with most health problems, these symptoms can vary in how strongly you feel them and how long they last – if they continue for more than two weeks you may have postnatal depression.
The first thing to say is that, especially if your symptoms are severe or you worry about harming yourself or your baby, it's very important that you see your GP.
If you are not having these thoughts, or your symptoms are milder, it's still really important that you talk to your GP, health visitor, partner and family about it. PND is not your fault, it is nothing to be ashamed of and is very common, so there's no reason to suffer in silence. It worries me that, according to a recent survey, nearly half of all mothers with PND didn't seek help because they were afraid of what might happen to them or their baby. Remember that your GP and health visitor only want to help you with any problems you're having adapting to life as a new mum – including postnatal depression – so there's no reason to keep it secret.
For mild symptoms, just getting a bit more support from your partner, family or close friends will be enough to help. You may also need some help from a counsellor or therapist like me (cognitive behavioural therapy is the most effective treatment for PND). For more severe symptoms you may need a combination of antidepressants and talking therapy – ask your GP about this.
If you want to know more about PND and how to treat it, the PND leaflet on the Royal College of Psychiatrists' website is excellent; I also recommend Overcoming Postnatal Depression: A Five Areas Approach by Christopher Williams, which is a self-help book based on the principles of CBT.
If you would like to book a session with me, email email@example.com