It can develop within the first six weeks of giving birth, but is often not apparent until around six months.Postnatal depression is more common than many people realise, affecting around one in 10 women after having a baby.Women from all ethnic groups can be affected. Teenage mothers are particularly at risk.Postnatal depression can sometimes go unnoticed and many women are unaware they have it, even though they don't feel quite right.The symptoms of postnatal depression are wide-ranging and can include low mood, feeling unable to cope and difficulty sleeping.
Signs and symptoms
Mood changes, irritability and episodes of tearfulness are common after giving birth. These symptoms are often known as the "baby blues" and they usually clear up within a few weeks. However, if your symptoms are more persistent, it could be postnatal depression. Some women don’t recognise they have postnatal depression, or they choose to ignore their symptoms because they’re afraid of being seen as a bad mother. If you think that a partner, relative or friend is showing the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression, be supportive and encourage her to see a GP.It's very important to understand that postnatal depression is an illness. If you have it, it doesn't mean you don't love or care for your baby.
"But I didn’t care. I just didn’t want to live. It was like I was in a bubble and I could see everyone, but they couldn’t see me. I knew something was desperately wrong with me but I didn’t know what.
She recognised that I was depressed and prescribed a low-dose antidepressant. It took three weeks for them to kick in, but they took me from the black into the grey. I wasn’t better, but it got me out of the worst depths of depression.
I went on automatic pilot – I did it all, but there was no heart or enjoyment in it. I knew I had a lovely, beautiful baby, but I couldn’t enjoy her.
"My GP had increased the dosage of antidepressants after the baby was born, but no one knew how bad I was feeling. I can’t talk now about the thoughts I was having, but they were so frightening. I later learned that a lot of women with postnatal illness have very scary thoughts. I thought I was going mad. I was having these thoughts, I couldn’t sleep or eat, I was depressed, tearful and having awful panic attacks.
"Everyone with postnatal illness has different symptoms and my main symptom was anxiety. I worried about everything and I just couldn’t break the cycle.
"It took two-to-three years for me to feel myself again. There were good days and bad days, and sometimes it felt like I was going backwards. It was easy to do too much and it would set me back again..
“I started feeling an intense anxiety, and I went downhill very fast – I was lying on the floor crying and asking for people to help me. It got so bad a friend said I needed to call the mental health crisis team.”
“I woke up feeling really sick and I felt all the anxiety coming back, and this time it was even worse. I was almost catatonic, lying on the floor in the kitchen. No one could…