Following childbirth, some women become rather depressed for a few days. The dramatic change in their lives implied by the newborn baby may make women feel tearful, helpless or even frightened in the few days following childbirth. This is often referred to as ‘the blues’.
For one in ten mothers in Australia, this reaction is more severe and lasts longer. This is known as post natal depression. The mother becomes confused and cannot cope with her baby’s needs. She may also feel shaky, exhausted or generally ill. These feelings of depression may lead to thoughts of suicide, infanticide or preoccupation that something may be wrong with her baby.
In the first three months after childbirth, there is a sixteenfold increase in the rate of mental disorder in women, and a five fold increase in the likelihood of being admitted with a psychiatric disorder to hospital. In the majority of less serious cases, the post natal depression begins to abate within about a month of delivery.
It is not known precisely why this period of a woman’s life should make her so vulnerable to depression. The various factors which contribute to her mental state include:
More than 90% of women suffering from post natal depression recover without complications or ongoing depression.
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