Is it baby blues or depression?

Having a baby should be one of the most important and joyous times in a woman’s life. While some women are naturally able to embrace this change, the joys of motherhood isn’t experienced by all women. For many new moms in South Africa postnatal depression is a reality (PND).

Postnatal depression symptoms to look out for:

  • Depressed mood
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling very anxious
  • Feeling emotional or out of control
  • Being unable to sleep even when the baby sleeps
  • Inability to feel any happiness
  • Thoughts of wanting to harm oneself or the baby

Dr. Bavi Vythilingum, a psychiatrist for 13 years, explains postnatal depression and its importance.

What exactly is postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression is depression that occurs from the birth of a baby up until the first year. Some psychiatrists consider postnatal depression to occur up until baby is 2 years old. Today the preferred terminology to use is postnatal distress, as most women have a combination of depressed mood and anxiety rather than depression alone.

How is it different to the baby blues?

Baby blues affects more than 90% of women and usually happens around 3 to 5 days after your baby is born – about the same time breast milk comes in. Most women feel weepy and sad, but generally cope. Baby blues are self-limiting and don’t last longer than two weeks. Postnatal depression, on the other hand, interferes with functioning, and causes and extreme distress. The mood changes last more than two weeks and can be severe enough to lead to suicidal thoughts.

What are the causes for postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression has no single cause – rather it is caused by an interaction between a genetic vulnerability, hormonal changes, and psychological stress such as lack of support.

What symptoms should one be aware of?

Depressed mood, feeling overwhelmed, feeling very anxious, feeling numbed or out of control, being unable to sleep even when the baby sleeps, not being able to feel any happiness, thoughts of wanting to harm oneself or the baby.

Are there any triggers in the pregnancy that could set off PND?

An unwanted pregnancy (not an unplanned pregnancy) using drugs or alcohol, poor social support, an abusive relationship, serious physical illness.

Is it preventable?

No, but early recognition and treatment can mean that women get can better very quickly.

What are the next steps someone should do if they suspect that they have PND?

See your doctor or clinic sister as soon as possible to get help.

What can your partner or family do to help someone suffering from PND?

Get them to see their doctor or clinic sister to get treatment and support them as much as possible.

What shouldn’t you tell someone who suffers from PND?

Do not tell them it’s their fault. Do not tell them to pull themselves together or to pray harder or count their blessings.

Are there any facilities that help women cope or treat PND?

There about are both state and private clinics that offer treatment e.g. The Akeso clinics throughout South Africa.

Other helpful websites:

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