Having a baby is usually thought of as a happy time. As a new mother, however, you may not necessarily feel this straight away.
You may go through a brief period of feeling emotional and tearful – known as the 'baby blues'. It usually starts 3-10 days after giving birth and affects around 85 per cent of new mothers. It is so common that it is considered normal. New fathers may also feel it. And, although having the baby blues may be distressing, it's important to be aware that it doesn't last long – usually only a few days – and is generally quite manageable.
Around 10-15 per cent of new mothers, however, develop a much deeper and longer-term depression known as postnatal depression (PND). It usually develops within six weeks of giving birth and can come on gradually or all of a sudden. It can range from being relatively mild to very severe.
As babies need care and attention frequently, including during the night, it is common to feel tired in the months following the birth of a child. And lack of sleep can make you feel both low and irritable. This is normal, and it is important not to confuse this with PND. However, one indication that you are going through PND is if you find it hard to sleep even when you're tired and have the opportunity to do so.
If you experience thoughts about death or harming yourself or the baby, this can be very frightening, and may make you feel as if you are going mad or completely out of control. You may be afraid to tell anyone about these feelings. But it's important to realise that having these thoughts doesn't mean that you are actually going to harm yourself or your children. How ever difficult it is, the more you can bring these feelings out into the open and talk about them, whether to a family member, a friend or a health professional, the less likely you will be to act on them.
Download the Mind booklet below which explains postnatal depression, including possible causes and how you can access treatment and support. Includes tips for helping yourself, and guidance for friends and family.
Web address: www.mind.org.uk