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The baby blues and postnatal depression

Feeling a bit low in the days after you've given birth can be worrying as women often anticipate that they ought to be filled with joy after having a new baby. In fact, many new mothers do go through a phase of feeling tearful and more emotional than usual, and this is known as the 'baby blues'.

There are thought to be some clear causes related to the huge hormonal changes your body goes through in the first days after birth as it adjusts to no longer being pregnant and to breastfeeding. It is important to be clear that although it can feel difficult and you may feel irritable, depressed and emotional, this usually only lasts for a few days.

Sometimes, the feelings of not being able to cope with things or enjoy anything can go on for longer, and may be accompanied by other symptoms such as panic attacks,  feeling tired, sleepy or unwell and anxious. If you are feeling very low for some time after your baby's birth, you may be experiencing postnatal depression which affects more than one in ten women. Many women try to struggle on hoping their feelings will go away, but it is really important to seek medical help. If you are anxious about going to the GP, talk to your partner or a trusted friend or family member and see if they might go along with your or make an appointment for you.

The NHS Choices website has a list of the key signs of postnatal depression which may be useful. These may include:

  • continuing sadness or low mood
  • a loss of interest and lack of enjoyment
  • tiredness, lack of energy and lethargy
  • insomnia
  • felling unable to care for your baby
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • changes to appetite
  • feeling irritable or agitated
  • feelings of hopelessness and guilt
  • problems bonding with baby
  • frightening thoughs

New research from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists found that the care offered by the NHS to women with postnatal depression varies hugely around the country and that women are not always referred on to specialist care and that they are sometimes expected to wait a long time to get help.

There are also some peer support groups and charities who it is worth contacting as they will be able to offer help, information and advice. PANDAS has a helpline you can call and a support team you can contact by email, as well as offering lots of information and advice. APNI, the Association for Post Natal Illness, has a telephone helpline and provides information too. Mothers for Mothers is a peer support group for those living in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and Bath and North East Somerset areas but has information on the website which may be helpful wherever you live. If you are feeling in need of urgent support at any time, don't forget that the Samaritans have a helpline which anyone can call.

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