Many new mothers experience what is commonly referred to as the 'baby blues' a few days after giving birth. These feelings of anxiety and lack of confidence can be very distressing but in most cases last only a week or two. Post-natal depression develops anytime in the first 12 months after birth. It can develop gradually or suddenly, leaving the new mother feeling completely overwhelmed, inadequate and unable to cope. They may have problems sleeping, panic attacks or an intense fear of dying.
It affects 10 to 20 per cent of new mothers.
Post natal depression can develop if the mother has a history of depression and/or anxiety or a family history of mental health problems. Or it may be due to a prolonged labour and/or delivery complications; or problems with the baby's health and care.
As with depression and anxiety disorders, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) is very effective.
This treatment helps by changing negative thoughts and feelings; encourages involvement in activities; and with increased awareness helps to prevent depression from becoming serious again.
Only a few women will need inpatient treatment in which case admission should be to a mother and baby unit.