Do I have ‘baby blues’ or postnatal depression?

There is a huge difference between a low mood (baby blues) and PND (postnatal depression). Many women and their families fail to recognize the signs of PND with grave consequences.

The birth of a baby brings on a plethora of emotions- excitement, joy, fear of looking after a baby. What you don’t expect is depression. You may almost feel guilty about feeling depressed. Understanding that its ‘not your fault’ is important, so that you can seek help.

I had my first child after a long wait of almost three years. I had undergone tests for fertility. Alhamdulillah, I conceived spontaneously.

My lovely daughter was born in December. I was so looking forward to bonding with her and all the joys of new motherhood.

Although it was a very pleasurable experience, I remember feeling very low at times. I wasn’t prepared for how tired and sleep-deprived I would be. I was ashamed of feeling this way. I couldn’t talk about it. I felt like a failure. The short cold winter days didn’t make it any better.

It was many years later that I acknowledged even to myself how I felt.

What are baby blues

Many women experience low mood, irritability, feeling overwhelmed in the few days following childbirth. You are likely to be very tired from labour and sleep deprived.

It’s quite normal to feel this way. With a supportive family network you can overcome this initial hurdle.

You may feel like crying for no reason. Its common to have difficulty sleeping, inability to focus and loss of appetite.

These symptoms should gradually improve by about 10 days post childbirth.

What is postnatal depression?

1 in 10 women experiences PND after childbirth. Unlike baby blues which occurs almost immediately after birth, PND may develop at any time. It may start in pregnancy and continue after birth. It may develop a few months later. The usual time for PND to develop is in the first two months following childbirth.

Common symptoms of PND are:

  • mood swings
  • irritability and anger
  • sleeping too much or inability to sleep
  • difficulty bonding with baby
  • withdrawing socially from family and friends
  • losing interest in activities that you used to enjoy
  • fatigue and inability to look after yourself
  • the feeling of inadequacy in looking after your baby
  • reduced self-esteem and self-confidence
  • In rare cases thoughts of self-harm or thoughts about harming the baby

Causes of PND

It is unclear if hormonal changes associated with pregnancy causes depression.

Psychosocial factors play a part in the development of PND:

  • Poor marital relationship
  • Lack of social support
  • Poverty
  • Personal stress
Women who have PND may have past history of:

  • Anxiety
  • PND in a previous pregnancy
  • Bipolar disorders
If you have experienced any of the above in a previous pregnancy, or outside pregnancy, you are more prone to PND. Inform your GP and they will keep a close watch.

When should I see a doctor?

Make an appointment to see your doctor:

If symptoms persist beyond 2 weeks
You have thoughts of self-harm or harming your baby
You are unable to look after yourself or the baby
Faith is a great healer. Every problem we face in life is an expiation for our sins. Reminders about patience and making dua to Allah to ease your problem will benefit you.

Correct religious knowledge will aid you along the path of seeking cure.

Your first point of contact should be your spouse or a close family member. Sometimes it may be easier to confide in a friend.

Seek medical help. Your GP or health visitor should be able to assess you and guide you in the right direction. You may be referred to a perinatal mental health service.

In the UK, there are phone helplines. You can call them or even text them if you feel unable to talk about it.

Do not suffer in silence.

Treatment for PND

There are various treaments that your GP will discuss with you:

  • Self-help
Take help from your spouse, other family members or friends. They can help you make time to do things that you enjoy. You can leave the baby in trusted hands and have a little “me” time.

Try to exercise or walk, eat food you enjoy and get plenty of rest.

  • Psychological therapy
Your GP may refer you for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This will help you in analysing your thoughts and thinking in a more positive way.

  • Medication
Sometimes you may need antidepressants to ease your depression. Your GP will prescribe this if other treatments have not been effective.

Puerperal Psychosis

A brief mention about a severe form of mental problem that occurs after childbirth.

It may happen hours, days or weeks after birth.

Symptoms may include:

  • Seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations)
  • Confusion
  • Obsessive thoughts about your baby
  • Sleep problems
  • Agitation
  • Attempts to harm yourself or your baby
You must get immediate medical attention in this case.

Interesting fact

Its not just mums who get depressed.

1 in 10 new fathers become depressed after having a baby.

So, if you are feeling fine, by the Grace of Allah, do watch out for your spouse!