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Pregnancy Bliss | Reproductive Health Hub

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So, what are the symptoms of postnatal depression?
There is an overwhelming feeling of despondency, sadness and anxiety. The mother will cry frequently and for prolonged periods. She feels utterly unable to cope with the demands of the baby and the home. At the same time, she may feel fearful and anxious about her own health and that of the baby.

Panic attacks are very common and the mother is often tense, unable to relax, and irritable. She feels unable to concentrate and will complain of poor memory. She may sit around all day staring vacantly into space. Simple tasks are perceived as confusing or insurmountable.

Is pain part of the picture?
Many mothers suffering from postnatal depression will complain of pain where there is no identifiable cause, apart from tension and anxiety. There is also difficulty in sleeping, which increases the general sense of fatigue.
Also common are loss of appetite and loss of interest in sex.

Does a sufferer experience all of these symptoms?
No, not necessarily. She may experience a few, most or, in severe cases, all of the mentioned symptoms.

Are there any other effects?
Unrecognised or untreated, postnatal depression will inevitably lead to other problems. Personal relationships may suffer greatly. Since meeting people is a burden to the sufferer, she may avoid people to the extent of not answering the door or the phone. This might create offence to the unwary. Repulsing the partner's sexual overtures may be misinterpreted.

How is postnatal depression treated?
Features suggestive of postnatal depression should always be taken seriously and help should be sought sooner rather than later. A doctor's advice should be sought and, quite often, antidepressant medication will be prescribed. Support for such mothers is very crucial in their recovery and this can be given by an understanding member of the family, friend, a midwife, district nurse or health worker.

Counseling, where available, can be very helpful. Overall, a genuine source of understanding, comfort and reassurance will be invaluable in the recovery process and the speed of it.

Are antidepressant drugs absolutely necessary?
While their use may not be absolutely necessary in every case, they are crucial in allowing for the necessary rest and they do actually make the patient feel better. They are not addictive and the mother should not worry that she might become dependent. When an assessment is made that they are required, it is probably best to take them.

Can treatment actually fail to work?
While the speed of recovery may differ, practically all mothers who suffer from postnatal depression recover completely. It is not known for postnatal depression to evolve into chronic depression.