• Postnatal Depression is what happens when you become depressed after having a baby. Sometimes, there may be an obvious reason, often there is none. It can be particularly distressing when you have so looked forward to having your baby through the months of pregnancy. You may feel guilty for feeling like this, or even feel that you can't cope with being a mother. Around one in every ten women have PND after having a baby. If untreated, it can last for months, or sometimes longer. You feel low, unhappy and wretched for much or all of the time. You may feel worse at particular times of the day, like mornings or evenings. Sometimes, there are good days that make you hope that it is over. It can be very disappointing when they are followed by bad days. Sometimes, it can seem that life is not worth living. All new mothers get pretty weary, but depression can make you feel so utterly exhausted that you feel physically ill. You may find that you are afraid to be alone with your baby. You may worry that he or she might scream, or choke, or be harmed in some way. Instead of feeling close to your baby, you may feel detached. You can't work out what your baby is feeling, or what your baby needs. You may feel anxious even if you have strong loving feelings for your baby. You worry that you might lose him or her through infection, mishandling, faulty development or a 'cot death'. You worry about 'snuffles', or how much weight has been (or not been) gained. You worry if your baby is crying or is too quiet (has the baby stopped breathing?) You may find that you need reassurance all the time from your partner, the health visitor, the GP, your family or a neighbour. You may also worry about your own health. You may feel panicky - your pulse races, your heart thumps and you may feel that you have heart disease or are on the brink of a stroke. Your tiredness may make you wonder if you have some dreadful illness, or if you will ever have any energy again. The fear of being left alone with all this can cause even the most capable person to cling desperately to their partner, not wanting to be left alone. Ways for other people to help Don't be shocked or disappointed if your wife, partner, sister or girlfriend reveals that she has felt awful since the birth of her baby. Take time to listen sympathetically and make sure that she gets the help she needs. Try not to be shocked or disappointed by a diagnosis of PND. In a way, it is good news because we know it can be effectively helped. Do all you can to help with the practical things that need to be done, while your partner does not feel up to doing them - shopping, feeding and changing the baby, or housework. It may be difficult for a while, but it is worth it. Make sure that you are clear about what is happening and that you get advice on how to help, especially if you are the mother's partner. Make sure that you have some support yourself. If this is your first baby, you may feel pushed to one side, both by the baby and by your partner's needs. Try not to feel resentful. Your partner needs your support and encouragement. Practical help with the baby, sympathetic listening, patience, affection and being positive will go a long way. Your partner will appreciate this even when the depression is over. Talking It can be a great relief just to talk to a sympathetic, understanding, uncritical listener - this could be a friend, a relative, a volunteer or a professional. Many general practices now have a counsellor, and trained health visitors can help treat PND. There are more specialised psychological treatments. Psychotherapy can help you to understand the depression in terms of what has happened to you in the past. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can help you to understand the depression in terms of how you think about yourself, the world and other people. These can be arranged through your GP with a community psychiatric nurse, a psychologist or a psychiatrist.

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