Post-natal depression

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
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Key facts about post-natal depression
Post-natal depression is a mood disorder which affects one in seven women who have had a baby, which equates to up to 50,000 women each year in Australia. It is an illness, not a character flaw.

As with depression generally, there are many inter-related physical, psychological and social factors that contribute to PND, which may vary from person to person from time to time. Like other illnesses, depression does not discriminate — it can affect anyone, however there are a number of factors which may place women at greater risk of post-natal depression, including:

  • Having a history of depression
  • Depression during the pregnancy
  • Partner relationship difficulties
  • Stressful life events such as the death of a loved one or moving house
  • A prolonged labour and/or delivery complications
  • Problems with the baby's health
  • Having an unsettled baby
  • A lack of practical and emotional support
  • A family history of mental disorders

Post-natal depression is when the "baby blues" don't go away. The baby blues affect 80 percent of women, usually between the third and tenth day after giving birth, while post-natal depression may develop and persist for weeks or many months, if left untreated. It can develop at any time in the first year after a baby is born and can begin suddenly or develop gradually.

There is growing evidence that women who have depression following the birth may also show signs of distress during the pregnancy.

Women need to take steps to seek appropriate treatment and support from family and friends. And likewise, family and friends need to be aware, and keep their eyes open to possible signs of distress, which may indicate early warning signs of depression.

Post-natal depression is treatable given the right treatment, support and time. Not everyone has the same symptoms, although if a woman is feeling 'low' for an extended period of time she should consult her doctor.

Symptoms can include:

  • Experiencing "low" moods
  • Feeling inadequate and a failure as a mother
  • Feeling a sense of hopelessness about the future
  • Feeling exhausted, empty, sad or tearful
  • Experiencing anxiety or panic
  • Fear for the baby and of the baby
  • Insomnia, or excessive sleep, nightmares
  • Appetite changes, not eating or over-eating
  • Inability to cope with a daily routine
  • Ideas about suicide

Information adapted from the beyondblue website. For more information see www.beyondblue.org.au.

To test if you're depressed, try the online depression test from beyondblue.


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