Welcome to Parent Hub

Seeking help for postnatal depression

Posted on 18 May 2018

One in 10 women in the UK will experience postnatal depression (rising to 40% in teen mothers), and as many as 20% of women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or after childbirth. It is incredibly common.

What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?

It is normal to feel emotional, tearful and anxious in the first two weeks after birth. This is commonly known as the ‘Baby Blues’ and is most likely due to the rush of hormones and changes in the body after birth. However if these feelings last beyond those first two weeks, or start later, you may have postnatal depression.

Postnatal depression tends to occur 2-8 weeks after the birth, but has been known to start up to a year after.

Symptoms of postnatal depression include (but are not limited to):

  • Loss or lack of interest in the baby, or difficulty bonding
  • Feeling hopeless and unable to cope
  • Not being able to stop crying
  • Lack of enjoyment
  • Exhaustion and an inability to concentrate
  • Excessive anxiety about the baby
  • Frightening thoughts (e.g. hurting your baby)
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety and panic attacks

Note that feeling exhausted and irritable is perfectly normal when you have a newborn, however if you have postnatal depression these feelings may stop you living your normal life.

What should you do if you suspect someone you know has postnatal depression?

If you suspect that your partner, or a friend or family member, is experiencing postnatal depression do not hesitate to speak to them. They may not realise this is what they are going through (believing it’s just the ‘Baby Blues’), or they may be afraid or ashamed to speak up.

Make time for them and provide an open and honest environment to listen to their experiences. Do not judge or blame them for their thoughts and feelings, no matter how distressing they are.

If they need it, give them space and offer practical support in the form of cooking and cleaning or childcare.

They may not have the willingness or energy to seek professional help. Make an appointment with their GP and accompany them.

For more guidance on how to support someone with postnatal depression take a look at this guide from Mind.

Postnatal depression is not something to be ashamed of

Being a parent is hard. Of course it can be wonderful, miraculous and fulfilling, but it can nonetheless be a massive emotional and physical strain. Struggling with exhaustion while trying to care for a new baby, often while you’re home alone, can be a real shock to the system. It is no wonder that many new mothers struggle with mental health problems.

Women often feel afraid to speak up about their postnatal depression, especially as there is an expectation to be happy. Some women feel that it makes them a failure as a mother, or that their baby will be taken away if they admit to how they feel.

It’s important to understand that these thoughts and feelings are just that, they’re not real.

Postnatal depression can affect anyone, even women who’ve never previously experienced a mental health problem.

However if you have experienced postnatal depression with an earlier child, you have an increased chance of it with a future birth. If you’re expecting, or planning to have another child, speak to your GP about how you can look after your mental health.

Getting help for postnatal depression

If you think you may have postnatal depression, please speak to someone you trust: your partner, a friend, your family, your health visitor. Simply talking about how you are feeling can often lift some of the burden and anxiety.

You should always seek professional help as soon as possible, as the symptoms can worsen and have a significant impact on you and your family.

Your GP will likely recommend a talking therapy (such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or counselling), and/or antidepressants. Some mothers also benefit from peer support groups.

There are many support resources out there, whether it’s educating yourself on the issue or finding help:

  • APNI – The Association for Post Natal Illnesses (APNI) is a charity providing support and advice for postnatal depression and illnesses.
  • NCT – NCT provide courses, groups and support for mothers and families from pregnancy to childhood.
  • Mind – Mind provide education and support for all mental health problems.
  • Family Action – Family Action provide practical, emotional and financial support to those experiencing poverty or disadvantage in the UK.