Coping With Postnatal Depression

Help is at hand to beat the ‘baby blues’ and keep on top of postnatal depression

Welcoming a new baby into the world is a wonderful event, but it can bring with it physical and emotional stress.Caring for a newborn represents a huge shift in lifestyle for any new mum, and that can be exhausting when combined with hormone changes experienced after giving birth. Often these factors can trigger postnatal depression.

Many women think they have to suffer in silence, but all new mums should know help is at hand.Dr James Arkell, consultant psychiatrist at the CapioNightingale Hospital says: “Many womenexperience transient mood changes in the first months after birth with irritability and tearfulness. This is traditionally called the ‘baby blues’ and usually resolves on its own.

“However, postnatal depression is more common than many people realise, but with the right help is easily treatable in most cases.”

Symptoms of postnatal depression

Not enough social support and a past history of depression could increase the risk of postnatal depression. New mums suffering from this condition may experience symptoms, such as:

  • persistent sleep disturbance
  • reduced appetite with weight loss
  • feeling sad or being tearful, your mood being worse in the morning
  • hopelessness or suicidal thoughts
  • poor concentration
  • fatigue and loss of interest in the things you would normally enjoy

“About 10% of women will experience persistent mood disturbances that last for more than two weeks,” says Dr Arkell.“These symptoms may require more urgent attention from your GP or health visitor.”

Treating postnatal depression

There are effective treatments available from your GP including talking therapies such as CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) and antidepressant medication. Maintaining a healthy diet and getting some exercise is important too as exercise releases endorphins – the chemical substances in the body which can relieve the symptoms of depression.

Natural supplements, such as 5-HTP,could also help. 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) is a naturally occurring amino acid which helps increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin, also known as the happy hormone, is essential for carrying messages between the brain and the body, and can impact on how we feel. Boosting serotonin levels could therefore improve mood and help relieve the symptoms of depression.

Don’t suffer alone

For most women suffering postnatal depression the support of a GP, health visitor and family is enough but about 3% will need additional treatment. “Having depression does not mean you are an unfit mother,” says Dr Arkell. “Being open about how you are feeling and talking things through with your partner, a family member or friend is important. And don’t forget, postnatal depression can affect men too.”


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