Impacting up to 1 in 7 new parents1, postnatal depression is a form of depression experienced after birth and can range from mild to very severe symptoms. Prolonged feelings such as sadness or emptiness caused from postnatal depression (also known as postpartum depression) can impact your wellbeing and interfere with day-to-day life. If you have recently had a baby or are supporting someone who had a baby, understanding the symptoms of postnatal depression is important so you can seek the appropriate support.
What is the difference between postnatal depression and the ‘baby blues’?
The main difference between postnatal depression and baby blues is the period of time you experience the symptoms. The steep drop in certain hormones that occur after giving birth often cause women to experience mood swings, feelings of overwhelm, crying (for no apparent reason) or disrupted sleep. This is referred to as the ‘baby blues’ and impacts around 80% of mothers2. Usually, these symptoms subside on their own and last for around three to five days.
If the symptoms do not start to reduce after this period, it is a good idea to speak to your healthcare professional. Postnatal depression symptoms generally start within the first month after birth and can last up to a year and requires treatment.
What can cause postnatal depression?
There are several contributing factors which can contribute to the onset of postnatal depression. The naturally occurring shift in hormones during and after birth can impact some women more than others, as well things such as:
- Lack of sleep / prolonged exhaustion
- Trauma from birth or pregnancy complications
- Difficulties with the wellbeing of your baby or adjusting to the new lifestyle
- A personal or family history of depression or anxiety.
Common signs of postpartum depression (PPD)
While the intensity of PPD symptoms can vary, in severe cases it can lead to dangerous thoughts and behaviours for you or your baby. Therefore, understanding the signs of postnatal depression is critical, so you or your partner can seek help as soon as possible. There are a wide range of possible symptoms, both physical and mental. These include:
- Prolonged low mood or feelings of despair
- Feelings of panic, stress or overwhelm
- Thoughts of suicide or of harming yourself
- Thoughts of harming your baby
- Low self-esteem or confidence as a parent
- Excessive tiredness / insomnia
- Changes in appetite
- Feeling disconnected or unable to bond with your baby
- Increased irritability, tearfulness, or anger.
Where to get help
If you are concerned you or your partner may be experiencing postpartum depression, know that you are not alone and there are a range of pathways available for support. We encourage you to have a chat with your healthcare professional as soon as possible, who can help you explore options for treatment. Additionally, our CAREinMIND counsellors are available for free professional counselling around the clock.
Other useful steps you can take are:
- Contacting your local maternal and child health nurse
- Calling the PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) helpline: 1300 726 306
Our CAREinMIND counsellors are available 24/7 on 1300 096 269 or click the floating chat button on the right. The service is free for people in north, western and central Melbourne and is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.