Bringing a new child into the world is of course associated with a wide range of emotions, and it can be a bit of a rollercoaster, especially for first time parents. Lots of mothers will experience periods of fluctuating emotions and it can be a stressful time. Approximately 80% of mothers will experience the ‘Baby Blues’ (BB)  and about 10% will experience postnatal depression (PND).

The term ‘Baby Blues’ isn’t really an exact one and symptoms vary from person to person. Some will feel tired, tearful and occasionally overwhelmed by being a mother. These symptoms are usually fairly transient and don’t tend to last more than 1-2 weeks. Sleep deprivation, a feeling of isolation or concerns over a lack of support may make these symptoms worse in the short term. As new mothers adapt to their new role and responsibilities associated with being a mother, the ‘Baby Blues’ tend to recede. Despite the fact that the ‘Blues’ settles over a short period of time for most Mums, the symptoms associated with it shouldn’t be dismissed and support from friends and family should always be sought and offered where possible.

Postnatal depression (PND) is a bit like the ‘Baby Blues’ though more serious, more sustained and something that will often need the input from a medical professional.

The symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness or low mood and anxiety
  • Tearfulness or irritable and easy to anger
  • Having no motivation to do things or go places
  • An inability to cope with everyday life, to concentrate on things whether serious or mundane
  • A desire to harm yourself or your new baby, which can be a fleeting desire or something that is more concrete
  • An inability to sleep, care for yourself or look after your child

In many cases of PND there will be no obvious cause. As GPs it is something that we are constantly on the look out for and something that we regularly ask our patients about. There will be those who are at increased risk of suffering PND. These include those who:

  • Have a history of depression or postnatal depression
  • May have previously suffered with anxiety
  • Before or during their pregnancy abused alcohol or drugs
  • Have financial or relationship troubles
  • May be pregnant and it was unplanned or unwanted
  • Had a recent bereavement or major life event such as a relationship breakup or job loss
  • Have a sick or disabled child or who had a difficult birth history
  • Multiple births (twins or triplets)

In Ireland, all Mums get free maternity care and we strongly encourage all Mums to talk to us if they are worried about their mood. Symptoms of postnatal depression can arise even before you give birth so it is important to look after your mental health during your pregnancy too. All Mums get a 6-week check that is also provided completely free of charge and this a useful time to talk about your mood. There are treatments available and not all of them include counselling or medications.

Please do not be offended if we ask how you are coping-this is often a great way for those who are finding it difficult to open up to us to tell us how they are feeling.

If you are worried about your mental health during your  pregnancy or after giving  birth please contact us on 01-8461335 or 01-803881 to make an appointment.\

This was posted by Dr. Niall