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Post Natal Depression



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:

a genetic predisposition. It is more common for women who have relatives who have had post natal depression, to also develop it;

the massive hormonal change combined with the mother’s new experiences, such as loss of sense of self, and the relationship of this to her perception of how she was mothered or cared about;

psychological and social issues. Post natal depression is more common with women who are having their first pregnancies, who are single mothers, who have had Caesarean sections, who are socially disadvantaged or have unsatisfactory and unsupportive relationships with their husbands and family, and who have a large number of major life events prior to or during the pregnancy;

sleep disturbances in the last three months of the pregnancy and in the first weeks with the new baby; and

unusual and intense symptoms such as anxiety during pregnancy.

If you have post natal depression, talk to your local doctor or clinic sister. You may find that discussing how you feel is helpful, or you may even need treatment with antidepressant tablets.

More than 90% of women suffering from post natal depression recover without complications or ongoing depression.

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