What is Perinatal Depression?

Perinatal depression is depression experienced during pregnancy (known as ante or prenatal depression) or after childbirth (known as postnatal depression). Many people are aware of postnatal depression (PND) but it's less commonly known that you can experience depression during pregnancy as well.

Antenatal Depression

Antenatal Depression affects around 10% of expectant mothers. It can be difficult especially in a first pregnancy to distinguish between 'normal' pregnancy anxieties and exhaustion, but it's important to speak to your Midwife or GP if you have any concerns as getting support and treatment early can really help.

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal Depression is a depressive illness which affects between 10 to 15 in every 100 women having a baby. The symptoms are similar to those in depression at other times. These include low mood and other symptoms lasting at least two weeks. Postnatal depression can occur at any point after you have had your baby and is different from the baby blues.  It is important to seek help as soon as you feel you are suffering with postnatal depression. There is no shame in seeking help and it means you are very brave!

A Note on the Baby Blues

The 'baby blues' is a brief period of feeling emotional and tearful around three to 10 days after giving birth. It affects about 85 per cent of new mothers. It's natural to feel emotional and overwhelmed after experiencing childbirth and becoming a parent, especially as you're likely to be coping with a lot of new demands on your time and attention, as well as getting little sleep. Although having the baby blues may be distressing, it's important to be aware that it doesn't last long – usually only a few days – and is generally quite manageable.

However, around 10–15 per cent of new mothers develop a much deeper and longer-term depression known as postnatal depression (PND). It usually develops within six weeks of giving birth and can come on gradually or all of a sudden. It can range from being relatively mild to very severe.

Common Signs & Symptoms

How you might feel: 

  • sad and low

  • tearful for no apparent reason

  • worthless

  • hopeless about the future

  • tired

  • unable to cope

  • irritable and angry

  • guilty

  • hostile or indifferent to your husband or partner

  • hostile or indifferent to your baby

How you might behave: 

  • lose concentration

  • have disturbed sleep

  • find it hard to sleep – even when you have the opportunity

  • have a reduced appetite

  • lack interest in sex

  • have thoughts about death

Treatment

Depending on your symptoms treatment may include:

  • Antidepressants

  • Self-Help

  • Peer Support

  • Talking Therapies

Antidepressants

Your GP may recommend a course of antidepressants if you are suffering from moderate to severe postpartum depression. For postpartum depression most have a course for six to 9 months. You should take them for a long as your GP advises as if you stop too soon it may return.

 

Most people struggle with a few symptoms for the first 2 weeks – such as nausea. After your body has got used to them they will start to work and you’ll feel much better. They take two to four weeks to kick in so give them a chance.

 

Self-Help

Eating a healthy diet and exercise can really help recovery. Make time for yourself to rest and get a good nights sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping make an appointment with your GP. Talk with family and friends about your feelings and ways they can help and support you. 

Peer Support, Mentoring & Befriending

Many mums find it very helpful to have the support of another mother who really understands what you are going through  and this can really help on your path to recovery. Mentors and Befrienders are trained mums who have lived experience and are a safe person for you to talk to. They are able to listen and provide you with non-judgemental practical and emotional support. They can help you develop coping strategies and share self-care techniques as well as supporting you to get out and about and access other services.

Talking Therapies

Cognative Behavioral  Therapy and Interpersonal Therapy are the talk therapies recommended by NICE for treating perinatal depression.  These therapies are short term (between 4 and 16  sessions)., and are effective in treating mild to moderate symptoms.

 

Many women find that they require a combination of the above therapies.. 

What to do if you think you might have Perinatal Depression?

Your first points of contact should be your Midwife , GP or Health Visitor. They have seen Mums in the same position as you and have helped them through it. They will start you off on your recovery. Your GP may recommend some medication, and will also be able to offer alternative methods of recovery. Remember having perinatal depression does not mean you are bad mother or that you are unable to cope – you may feel this way but it doesn’t make it true.

Support from Nurture the Borders

Your first points of contact should be your Midwife , GP or Health Visitor. They have seen Mums in the same position as you and have helped them through it. They will start you off on your recovery. Your GP may recommend some medication, and will also be able to offer alternative methods of recovery. Remember having perinatal depression does not mean you are bad mother or that you are unable to cope – you may feel this way but it doesn’t make it true.

© 2016 Nurture the Borders C.I.C

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