Postnatal Depression Questions


We asked Diane Nehmé from The Association for Post-Natal Illness (APNI) what she would want to know if she was diagnosed with postnatal depression .

What is postnatal depression?
Postnatal depression is a condition entirely associated with pregnancy and childbirth. Although it is called depression, there are many differing symptoms, which can range from anxiety and fear to tension, irritability or confusion. PND differs from person to person both in the symptoms and how each person reacts to treatment.

What causes PND?
Nobody knows exactly what causes postnatal depression. Some physicians believe it has its roots in hormonal causes, while other professionals believe it could be due to other changes in the body combined with the stress of having a baby and how your body reacts. For some women, PND begins for no obvious reason.

I don’t feel depressed, so I can’t have PND, can I?
The term ‘postnatal depression’ can be slightly misleading as depression may not be what you feel. For some women, the main symptom could be anxiety, obsessional thoughts, feelings of being unable to cope, lethargy, or a feeling of being ‘manic’.

What have I done? If I hadn’t had the baby, I wouldn’t be feeling like this.
There are many illnesses that may be attached to pregnancy and childbirth and PND is one of them. The crucial thing to remember is that PND is a temporary condition.

Is it because I did something wrong in pregnancy?
No, it’s not. PND isn’t linked to anything you’ve ‘done wrong’ and you shouldn’t feel guilty. It is not your fault. Some women may have a predisposition to PND. If you have a family history of PND on the maternal side or any previous bouts of depression from any source, then you may be more at risk, but this is not a definitive list.

I’ve been having disturbing thoughts. If I tell my GP, will my baby be taken away?
It’s rare for social workers to take a baby into care due to PND these days, although this doesn’t stop it being a real worry for many sufferers. Even in mild cases, postnatal depression can cause enormous anguish and it’s common for anyone who has disturbing thoughts to wonder what will happen to them and their baby if they seek help. Remember, if you go to your GP, you don’t have to disclose what is in your thoughts, only that you are having them.

I had PND after my first baby and now I’m pregnant again. What’s the chance of getting it again?
There are no precise figures for a recurrence but you’re more at risk of having PND again if you have had it before. However, the second time around, it’s more likely that you and your family will be aware of the symptoms and be able to seek help. (The earlier treatment is started, the earlier you will respond.)

If you had PND with your first baby, extra precautions may be taken from late pregnancy onwards. Your GP may offer you a very low-dosage anti-depressant during the latter stages of pregnancy and then increase the dosage in the weeks and months after the birth. Or you can opt for a wait-and-see approach. In some cases, a course of the hormone progesterone may be offered after your delivery (although its effectiveness is a matter of debate).

Can I still breastfeed if I’m taking antidepressants?
There are some antidepressants that are acceptable for use by breastfeeding women.

Am I going to get better?
Yes, you will as long as the PND is recognised and treated. There may be difficult times and it could be a harder struggle for some people, but PND is temporary.

From Nursing