Depression comes in many forms, with one of them being postnatal depression. While all mothers experience some level of anxiety after giving birth, postnatal depression is more than just feeling anxious or stressed about taking care of a newborn. 

What is postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression is more common than most people think. Sometimes referred to as postpartum depression, postnatal depression affects one in 10 women who give birth. 

Sometimes, postnatal depression occurs gradually and may be difficult for new mothers to detect. Unlike baby blues, postnatal depression is unlikely to get better over time and could potentially worsen if not attended to. 

 Sufferers of postnatal depression may have suicidal thoughts, extreme anxiety, negative emotions towards their newborn, and not being able to enjoy anything. 

The depression may also fuel a deep sense of guilt in sufferers. This is because they may feel that they’reincompetent as mothers, or consider themselves weak and abnormal. 

What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?

infographic on the common symptoms of postnatal depression
Common symptoms of postnatal depression include tearfulness and negative feelings towards the baby.

Postnatal depression symptoms can vary from person to person, with some mothers experiencing different or more severe symptoms than others. 

Here’s a list of the more common postnatal depression symptoms:

  • Low mood
  • Anxiety
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Poor quality of sleep
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Sense of guilt and hopelessness
  • Low appetite
  • Tearfulness
  • Body aches
  • Negative feelings towards baby

Sufferers of postnatal depression are often more lethargic and tired than other new mothers. Furthermore, extreme anxiety, guilt and a sense of hopelessness adds on to their stress of being a new mother. 

Postnatal depression symptoms may not be immediately apparent and may arise more gradually, making it difficult for mothers and those around them to detect it. 

Do you suspect that you, a family member or a friend may have postnatal depression? With MyDoc, you can consult with a medical professional via video, and even get specialist referrals from the comfort of your own home.

When does postnatal depression usually occur?

Postnatal depression generally occurs within the first few months after childbirth. However, it can also start any time within the first year of childbirth. 

It can also occur when the mother has been depressed while pregnant, with the depression not going away even after she has given birth.

Who is at risk of postnatal depression?

In general, those with a history of psychiatric illnesses, especially major depression, are more likely to suffer from postnatal depression. As mentioned previously, women suffering from depression during pregnancy could experience postnatal depression if the illness was left untreated. 

Women facing difficult life circumstances are also susceptible to postnatal depression. This includes those with financial woes, little support and poor relationships with their spouse or loved ones. Following childbirth, women tend to feel more emotionally vulnerable. Without sufficient support from those they trust, they could be at risk of developing postnatal depression. 

Women who have undergone a difficult pregnancy resulting in health problems are also prone to postnatal depression. This is also the case for mothers who have given birth to a premature baby or one that’s unwell and requires much attention.

Difficulty in breastfeeding could also result in postnatal depression for some mothers.

How is postnatal depression treated?

Thankfully, there are a few treatment options for postnatal depression. 

Certain forms of treatment may be more effective than others, depending on an individual’s needs and the severity of the condition.

Less severe postnatal depression

Mothers who suspect they are suffering from postnatal depression or detect these symptoms early on can go for milder treatments that do not require medication. 

Talk therapy, a form of prescribed psychological treatment, is a great option for milder cases of postnatal depression. The main goal of talk therapy is to give new mothers emotional support by allowing them to voice out their struggles in a safe platform. 

Talk therapy is based on the fundamental idea that voicing out concerns can bring clarity and put things in better perspective. Mothers suffering mild symptoms of postnatal depression may find this form of therapy helpful, where they feel safe sharing about their struggles. 

To receive this form of treatment, mothers can get a recommendation from their doctor, who will refer them to the appropriate therapist, counsellor or support group.

More severe postnatal depression

However, if the postnatal depression symptoms are severe, talk therapy alone may not be as effective. 

There are serious consequences if severe forms of postnatal depression are not treated. In some cases, both the lives of the mother and child may be at risk. For such serious forms of postnatal depression, it may be necessary for sufferers to receive medication, on top of going for therapy. 

Some mothers with severe postnatal depression may be resistant to such treatments, since they may not be comfortable with the idea of taking medication. Sufferers may also undergo treatment initially, and then back out halfway. 

In such cases, it’s important for close friends and family members to intervene. Loved ones will need to encourage them to receive treatment.

Here’s a quick summary of the treatment options available for postnatal depression. 

Less severe postnatal depressionMore severe postnatal depression
TreatmentTalk therapy with a therapist, counsellor or support groupMedication, Psychological treatment

Important for loved ones to encourage acceptance of the recommended treatment if the mother is resistant.

How postnatal depression sufferers can cope better

Apart from seeking professional medical help, mothers with postnatal depression can also make some lifestyle changes to manage their depression. 

Here are some useful habits that postnatal depression sufferers can start incorporating into their lifestyle.

1) Get some exercise

Mother doing a simple yoga stretch in the garden
Low-intensity exercises like yoga can help with depression symptoms.

Mothers with postnatal depression don’t have to do anything intense to enjoy the benefits of exercise. Light forms of exercise like walking, stretching or yoga can already help to alleviate stress and improve mood. 

When exercising, your body releases chemicals that can help to lift up your mood. Going outdoors regularly is also beneficial for overall well-being. 

If preferred, mothers can take walks in a nearby park with their baby in the stroller. This can help them bond with their child while getting some exercise.

2) Eat a healthy and well-balanced diet

Following a healthy and well-balanced diet can do wonders to one’s overall well-being. 

At times, physical stress and fatigue can contribute to anxiety and stress. When ensuring a  healthy diet, strength can come back to the body, helping to ease the symptoms of postnatal depression.

3) Get more rest 

If it’s difficult to get 8 hours of sleep at night, mothers can take naps in the afternoon to curb fatigue. 

Additionally, if they find that house chores and your responsibilities as a new mother are too overwhelming, they can ask loved ones to lend a helping hand so they can have more time for rest. 

Getting adequate rest is crucial since it ensures optimal psychological and physical health. Sufferers of postnatal depression may find themselves surprised at how being well-rested can help with symptoms.

4) Spend more time with other mothers

Being around other mothers can also be a good form of emotional support, whether or not they have gone through something similar.

Sometimes, postnatal depression can make mothers feel lonely and isolated, and as if no one else understands how they truly feel. 

By interacting with other mothers, postnatal depression sufferers can learn that they aren’t actually alone. Additionally, mothers can support each other through tough situations and provide practical advice. 

Postnatal depression is more common in our society than we think. Since the symptoms can set in gradually, postnatal depression can sometimes go unnoticed. 

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from postnatal depression, seek help immediately. 

Read more tips on how you can cope with postnatal depression here.

With MyDoc, you can skip long queues at a GP consult with a doctor via video. MyDoc even offers medication delivery services so you don’t have to further exert yourself by travelling out.

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