There are 3 types of psychological problems after childbirth.

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“3rd day Blues”

To a certain extent all women may suffer from this, especially first time mothers who have had a long drawn-out or difficult labour.  By the time the baby is born they have probably not slept for 3 nights and are suddenly expected to know how to look after a screaming baby. By the end of the 3rd day after the baby has arrived, you may be short of sleep, with a sore bottom, sore nipples, sore abdomen, with a hungover or equally sleep-deprived partner and feel overwhelmed by visitors and phone calls!

You may just burst into tears, often without warning, for no apparent reason.  You may feel very emotional and just completely overwhelmed with the situation you now find yourself in.

Fortunately this condition is nothing to be concerned about and is normally self limiting.  A good sleep or rest whilst someone takes the baby for an hour, adequate pain relief and TLC will work wonders.  Quite simply you have to adjust to a different routine, learn to sleep when baby sleeps, and try not feel pressured into answering phone calls, emails and texts.  Once again, there is no substitution for the help and support from your extended family, especially from your mother if she is available.  Do remember you cannot do everything and there will be times when you have to turn phone off and sleep or rest.

If you do not feel any better after a few weeks, or a month, you should talk to your doctor or midwife as you could be suffering from Post Natal Depression.

 

Postnatal Depression (PND)

This is a surprisingly common condition, affecting 10% of women.  This can come on a few days or weeks after childbirth or sometimes even later. It may last a few weeks or even months.  Sometimes women realise they have it at the time but often it is a diagnosis made in retrospect which explains why some women go untreated.

Symptoms include;

Feeling tearful and having difficulty bonding with your baby.  You may feel a lack of confidence and have feelings of inadequacy associated with poor sleep and feeling down-right low.

Its thought to be more common after a bad birth experience or when couples, and women particularly, have unrealistic expectations about becoming a mother or parent for the first time.  Sometimes there is an element of lack of support from the partner, friends or family. Not all cases of PND can be predicted, but women with a previous history psychological problems appear to be at higher risk.

Women are notoriously good at multi-tasking, but running a business, organising a household, maintaining a social life, looking after a partner and becoming a mother for the first time does have a cost and sometimes PND is a result of just too much going on.

If you are suffering from any of the symptoms we have mentioned and are worried that you may be suffering from PND you should consult your midwife or doctor or GP as soon as you can and he or she will arrange treatment for you.

If you feel worried that you will harm your baby, then please also speak to your midwife or GP about this.  You should not be afraid of telling someone about these thoughts, they will not try to take your baby from you, they will help you to get better.

Treatment is usually very effective and the condition is self-limiting.  Behavioural therapy, general support from friends and family, psychological counselling and occasionally drug use, all have a role to play.

Subsequent pregnancies may also be affected but with good psychological and social support during and after pregnancy, often serious problems can be prevented.

 

Puerperal Psychosis

This is rare condition affecting around 1 in 1000 women.  The woman becomes serious psychologically disturbed usually a few days or weeks after delivery.  Symptoms can include hallucinations, delusions, hearing voices and paranoia about people around you.   Inappropriate behaviour and an inability to sleep are also signs that something can be seriously wrong.  You may become out of touch with reality and have no insight into your condition.  If this is the case then you can be a serious risk to yourself, your baby and others around you.

Once suspected, immediate and expert psychological care is needed.  With the cooperation of the family, you will usually be admitted to hospital and placed in secure mother and baby unit for treatment until the condition is improved.  Therapy may take weeks or months, depending on the drugs, some of which may affect breastfeeding. Although puerperal psychosis is a serious condition, the vast majority of women make a full recovery.

Some of these psychological episodes can be predicted and prevented especially in women who have had previous serious psychological problems before. If these issues have been highlighted during the pregnancy they can often be prevented by early intervention with drugs and therapy in the postnatal period.


There are many support groups all over the UK designed to help women suffering from PND.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists has some great advice for coping with PND http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk

The Association for Post Natal Illness has lots more information on this subject http://apni.org/

You can chat via a forum to women who have been through PND at the Post Natal Illness Organisation  http://www.pni.org.uk/

If you want to talk to someone over the phone you can call the Samaritans on  08457 90 90 90