Postnatal Depression or Just the “Baby Blues”?

You’re exhausted. The baby’s been up all night and you’re struggling to get through the day, biting the head off anyone who asks you if you’re ok. No one told you it would be like this. Having a baby is meant to be a wonderful experience. So why do you feel so unhappy?

Everyone feels down at some point after the birth of their baby. It’s hardly surprising – the cocktail of hormones that has been surging round your body for the last nine months has now radically changed. If you had a long or particularly difficult labour, your body may still be in shock. If you’re breastfeeding, it can be painful and exhausting before you get comfortable with it – if indeed you do. In addition, you may be experiencing:

  • Chronic sleep deprivation
  • A change in status within your relationship
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • A colicky or reflux baby who constantly cries

Add to this the possibility of financial problems, a baby with specific health issues or disabilities or another life change at the same time such as a divorce, bereavement or house move, and it’s a wonder any new mother gets through the early months with her sanity intact.

There are, however, some warning signs that your feelings are going beyond what might be considered “normal” baby blues. These can include:

  • Being constantly tearful
  • Feeling that you might harm your child
  • Feeling that you might harm yourself
  • Not experiencing any happy feelings at all
  • An overwhelming sense of fear or anxiety
  • Lack of positive feelings for your baby
  • A general feeling that you’re going “mad”.

If you experience any of these, please make an appointment to see your doctor. You may be resistant to this – as if admitting to ambivalent or negative feelings will make you a “bad mother” or, worse, prompt social services to remove your children. Please don’t let this stop you from going to see someone. They will have heard it all before – symptoms of postnatal depression are very common and the right treatment can make a huge difference to your relationship with your baby.

You won’t be forced to take medication or attend counselling just by making the appointment. But you will at least be given some options, something which life can feel devoid of when you’re in the throes of postnatal depression.

I remember struggling with own feelings before going to see my GP. I wasn’t sure if what I was normal and would pass with time, or if it deserved the PND label. She helped me to realise that it didn’t actually matter what the label was, as there is no physical test for postnatal depression. You have a collection of symptoms and feelings, and if you need help, you need help. Admitting you’re having a hard time doesn’t make you a bad person – and it is often the first step on the road to a much happier, more positive future for you and your family.