Supports for postnatal depression
Many women suffer "the baby blues" during the first weeks after childbirth. Giving birth can be a highly emotional and physically traumatic experience and the sudden drop in hormone levels following birth can leave you emotionally and physically drained. You may feel weepy, hyper-sensitive, anxious and alone in the world. About 80% of women feel like this and will experience "the baby blues" at some point following the birth of their baby. These feelings will usually pass, with some rest and physical and moral support from your partner, family and friends.
However, you may be one of the 10% of women who go on to develop postnatal depression. Postnatal depression usually begins 2 to 8 weeks following birth, but can sometimes appear up to 6 months or even a year after birth. Unfortunately, many women experience this form of depression without even being aware of the symptoms or the fact that postnatal depression is a real illness. They experience some of the following feeling:
- Deep despondency
- Feeling that you can't cope with your baby
- Exhausted but unable to sleep
- Poor appetite
- Excessive anxiety about your baby
If you are experiencing some of these feelings, you may be suffering from postnatal depression and you should ask for help. Talk to your family doctor (GP) or public health nurse or someone you can trust. If you don't feel up to making an appointment to see your GP or public health nurse, ask someone to do this for you or arrange for a home visit.
Healthcare professionals have experience with this type of depression - they will listen to you, and will be able to discuss available options with you. Postnatal depression can happen to any woman and can occur at any time after your baby is born - treatment is very successful, so it is important to recognise the symptoms and seek help.
If you have had your baby recently, the maternity hospital may be able to help. Contact the midwife or doctor who cared for you during your pregnancy. It is possible you may be referred to the hospital psychiatrist, who will discuss your depression with you and will look at available supports. The hospital social work department will also be able to help.
Advice for family and friends
If your partner, family member or someone you know is suffering from postnatal depression, it is important to recognise the symptoms and remember that this illness is very real but also very treatable. As a friend or family member, you will need to provide lots of support and help - as with all illnesses, recovery may be slow and there will be good and bad days. The Health Service Executive (HSE) has produced a free booklet, Postnatal Depression (pdf) which may be of assistance. Any of the following organisations can offer friendship, advice and support.
Where to apply
The following voluntary organisations offer advice, information and support services for those with postnatal depression and their families: