Up to 8 in 10 new mums experience 'the baby blues' - but what exactly is it and how is it different to post natal depression?
The baby blues are incredibly common amongst new mums. When you give birth, your body goes through some major hormonal changes which can leave you feeling anxious, weepy and worried about your baby's health. Levels of hormones that were required during pregnancy drop rapidly, while others that promote the bonding process and trigger the start of milk production increase.
You're probably also suffering from an extreme lack of sleep and the feeling of incredible responsibility that comes with being a parent might hit you very suddenly. You might even feel a bit of an anti-climax, after leaving hospital and perhaps receiving fewer visitors at home, which might make you feel sad. Overall, the first few weeks of parenthood can feel overwhelming but the main thing to remember is: it's all completely normal.
How is this different to post natal depression?
The baby blues isn't an illness and it should pass gradually, as your hormone levels settle and you get your head around this new way of life. However, post natal depression can last for months if it's not treated. Affecting 1 in 10 new mums, PND can be caused by a number of factors:
- depression during pregnancy
- a difficult delivery
- lack of support at home
- relationship worries
- money problems
- having no close family or friends around you
- physical health problems following the birth, such as urinary incontinence (loss of bladder control), or persistent pain from an episiotomy scar or a forceps delivery
- hormonal changes to the body
- exhaustion and stress
If you experience low mood, a feeling of being unable to cope and difficulty sleeping, and it is persistent, then you should visit your GP and discuss the possibility of post natal depression. Once diagnosed, the treatments includes self-help advice, talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and antidepressant medication.
The most important thing is that you seek help and don't bottle up how you're feeling - having PND doesn't make you a bad mum. For more information, see the NHS website.