If you Google it, postnatal depression is described as being a type of depression that some women experience after having a baby. But as anyone who’s had a baby knows, there can be a lot more to the ‘the baby blues’ than just ‘feeling a bit low’.
The truth is, with everything else going on just after a new baby arrives – things like new routines for everyone involved, new sleep patterns, new habits, opinions and thoughts being shared among close and even not-so-close family members - postnatal depression can sometimes go unnoticed for a long time.
In fact, particularly if you’re a woman who’s always experienced the ‘ups and downs’ of hormonal variations on a monthly basis, you may not be aware you have postnatal depression at all – even though ‘something’s definitely not quite right’. From feeling grumpy, to bursting into tears for no reason; from having a little bit of trouble sleeping to feeling as though you’re completely unable to cope with any aspect of life at the moment … the trouble is, the symptoms of postnatal depression are wide-ranging and varied.
Symptoms of postnatal depression
It’s generally agreed that postnatal depression can take many forms. As we’ve just mentioned, symptoms can include disturbed sleep patterns, feeling irritable or agitated, and generally having ‘the grumps’ or ‘the blues’. But they can also include a general lack of self-esteem, low confidence, poor decision-making, feelings of self-guilt or blame and an unusual appetite – be it comfort eating, or not eating enough. And some individuals experience the extremes of this condition: losing libido (sex drive) completely and not wanting to be touched at all, or even feeling suicidal at times. The good news is, that anyone with postnatal depression can get help.
How to spot someone with postnatal depression
It’s difficult to give a ‘catch all’ list of symptoms, as you can tell. If you’re aware that someone has had a baby recently – and that could be months or even in the last couple of years – then these could be indicators there’s something not quite right.
- Does she burst into tears for no reason?
- Is she struggling to ‘bond’ with her baby?
- Is she always tired, sometimes irrational and ‘grumpy’ more often?
- Is she taking care of herself, washing and changing clothes daily?
- Does she seem distracted and lose a sense of time?
- Has she lost her sense of humour, has she stopped smiling?
- Is she worried something’s always wrong with the new baby?
If you see these signs, what’s really important is to understand that postnatal depression isn’t something you can ‘snap out of’. It may need treatment by a medical professional, and plenty of patience, understanding and compassion from the people who know new Mum best – and that includes being prepared for new Mum to go through a period of denial, too.
What to do, if you have postnatal depression
Don’t be afraid or ashamed of it, it’s quite common. What’s more, it’s safe to say that the emotional and physical impact of postnatal depression are easy to underestimate if you haven’t had it yourself, so people around you may not be aware of how drained you feel – and how helpless, or frustrated. If you can, talk to someone about how you’re feeling as soon as you can. Perhaps most importantly, talk to a professional: you have many opportunities at the moment, as a new parent, to visit a GP or get in touch with a health visitor.