When It’s More Than Just The Baby Blues

What is PND?

The majority of new mums experience the ‘baby blues’ within days of giving birth, which is caused by a dip or ‘crash’ in hormones and typically leads to feeling low and tearful for a short period of time.

PND, however, is a prolonged illness that won’t go away without professional treatment.

Post natal depression (PND) is estimated to affect one in every five women, and one in 10 men. It’s a mood disorder connected to childbirth that can be effectively treated with a range of treatments individual to each case, including GP assessments, taking a course of antidepressants, and undergoing therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

Depression can begin to develop either during pregnancy or after birth, and studies show that early intervention provides the best chance at successful treatment – one of the key reasons that drove us to develop the Moment Health App.

We want to help parents and their loved ones with the early detection of perinatal depression – that is, in general, depression that develops any time from conception to the time a baby reaches 12 months of age – and help mums and dads get the intervention and support they need and deserve.

While post natal depression and related anxieties are never a one size fits all, we hope this article will help to inform you about some of the typical signs and symptoms of various forms of PND, and – most importantly – assist you in taking the next step in seeking professional support.

In every case, there is never the need for blame: all parents should remember having PND is not their fault. It is not a reflection of their abilities as a parent, nor is it ever the case that they will get over it or should cope with it alone. Always seek help.

Antenatal Depression

Antenatal depression develops during pregnancy. It can be brought on by a range of factors and worries – everything from financial or relationship stresses, to worrying about the baby’s health during pregnancy or whether you’ll be a good mum.

Anyone can experience PND, whether they’ve had a previous history of depression or not.

As professor Jim Dornan, a leading obstetrician and gynaecologist from Ireland, has said in his guest blog for Moment Health, “PND, as the name suggests, mostly occurs after birth, but in many cases not only are the seeds planted antenatally, but indeed previously perfectly healthy women can become clinically depressed before the birth in many cases.”

Post Natal Depression

Post natal depression refers to cases where a mum develops depression after her baby is born. It doesn’t discriminate, meaning it affects women of all backgrounds, whether they’ve had depression in the past or not.

Some women may develop PND after the birth of their first child, while others may experience it after having their second or third baby. Some will experience PND with every child; while others may have it once and go on to have more children without experiencing it again.

According to the NHS, the main signs and symptoms of PND and related illnesses can include:

  • A persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
  • Loss of interest in the world around you and no longer enjoying things that used to give you pleasure
  • Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
  • Feeling that you're unable to look after your baby
  • Problems concentrating and making decisions
  • Loss of appetite or an increased appetite (comfort eating)
  • Feeling agitated, irritable or very apathetic (you "can't be bothered")
  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby with a feeling of indifference and no sense of enjoyment in his or her company
  • Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby; these can be scary, but they're very rarely acted upon
  • Thinking about suicide and self-harm

It’s also important to note that some parents can experience late on-set post natal depression too, which may develop after the baby is six months old. The signs and symptoms are similar to those listed above, and may occur for various reasons which might include, for example: struggling to cope with exhaustion; intense feelings of guilt over returning to work; or a delayed reaction to a traumatic birth experience.

Post Natal Anxiety

Post natal anxiety affects thousands of women in the UK every year. While all new parents will worry about the health and safety of their baby, for people with post-natal anxiety there may be a constant feeling of fear or doom, which begins to affect their routine and inhibits their ability to enjoy and participate in daily life.

While the main signs of post natal anxiety are intense feelings of fear and panic, other symptoms include: panic attacks; night terrors; night sweats; a fear of leaving the house; and an intense fear or worry about your baby being in danger or coming to harm.

Post Natal OCD

According to OCDUK, obsessive-compulsive disorder is believed to affect 2-4 per cent of new mums. “Some women develop OCD for the first time either during pregnancy or shortly afterwards, whilst others find that pre-existing OCD symptoms become worse,” it states.

While post-natal OCD can have symptoms and traits that are found in other forms of obsessive-compulsive disorder, it can also bring about obsessive fears around harm coming to the baby.

Signs and symptoms can include:

  • Excessively washing baby clothes
  • Avoiding others coming into contact with the baby
  • Constantly checking on the baby
  • Throwing out or hiding sharp household objects such as knives and scissors
  • Experiencing intrusive thoughts of harming the baby
  • Extreme fear of making a decision that would lead to harming the baby

Post Natal Depression in Men

Post natal depression, or paternal depression, is estimated to affect one in 10 dads in the UK. It typically presents within the first year of a baby’s life, or may begin to develop while their partner is pregnant.

Research carried out in the UK in 2015 found that one in three new dads (38 per cent) are concerned about their mental health.

Pressures for new dads can include increased financial responsibility, poor sleep, an increase of household chores and responsibilities, changes to their relationship, and concern for their partner’s wellbeing.

To help with early intervention and prevention, we recommend that both new mums and dads also download the Moment Health App, to keep track of their progress and emotional wellbeing from pregnancy through to parenthood.

Just as women with PND should seek professional advice and support from loved ones, asking for help is also imperative for a dad’s successful recovery.

Postpartum Psychosis

Postpartum pyschosis is extremely rare, affecting one in 1000 women, though it’s also extremely serious and requires immediate emergency care for the safety of the mother and baby.

It typically develops soon after a woman has her baby, and symptoms include hallucinations, restlessness, confusion, feeling paranoid or suspicious, manic mood swings and feeling severely depressed.

Worried you or a loved one may be experiencing symptoms of PND or a related illness? Read our article “How Do I Know I Have PND” for further information and advice for seeking help and support.

A bit about Moment Health…

Moment Health is a technology company that aims to prioritise Maternal Mental Health and provide new parents with the tools and knowledge they need to sustain good mental wellbeing – from pregnancy through to parenthood.

The Moment Health app has been developed with clinicians and healthcare professionals. It screens for perinatal, postnatal and associated anxieties, and includes additional features such as a helpful guide to practical and accessible coping strategies.

At Moment Health, our mission is to make maternal mental health mainstream #MakeItMainstream.

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