Having a new baby is life changing and it’s natural to experience a range of emotions and reactions during and after your pregnancy. That said, if they start to have a big impact on how you live your life, you might be experiencing a mental health problem. Postpartum or postnatal depression (PND) is a mental health problem associated with childbirth and can affect both men and woman. It is difficult to get a reflection of the scale of this in the UAE, but the World Health Organisation suggests that worldwide around 10% of pregnant women and 13% of women who have just given birth, experience a mental health problem, primarily depression.
Any mental health disorder up to a year after the birth of your baby is considered PND. Depression after this point would not be classified as postnatal/postpartum. Sadly, up to 40% of cases go untreated.
Some potential risk factors
Some new mums and dads are considered at higher risk of developing postnatal anxiety or depression due to things happening in their lives or the way they’re put together. However, it’s important to note that many new parents can develop postnatal anxiety or depression even if they have no particular risk factors. It simply happens. Some of the factors that might contribute to postnatal anxiety and depression include:
- If you’ve previously experienced a mental health problem during or directly after pregnancy.
- If you’ve experienced stressful life events during the past year, such as pregnancy. complications, illness, job loss or financial problems.
- If the baby has unexpected health problems or additional needs.
- If you’re having problems in your relationship with your spouse.
This is not to say that if you have these risk factors you will suffer with PND; it just places you at increased risk.
Signs and symptoms to look out for
If you have the baby blues, you may have mood swings, experience anxiety, sadness and irritability. You may feel overwhelmed, crying all the time and experience reduced concentration, appetite problems and have trouble sleeping. Signs and symptoms of the baby blues tend to last only a few days to a week or two after your baby is born and are perfectly NORMAL.
Postnatal depression may be mistaken for baby blues at first — but the signs and symptoms are more intense and will last longer. In fact, they may eventually interfere with your ability to care for your baby and handle other daily tasks.
Symptoms include the following:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying,
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
Where to find help
The first step would be to speak to your family physician. They’ll listen to your feelings and can refer you to local support services, discuss treatments and if medication is required, they can also refer you to a specialist mental health practitioner.
Written by Nightingale’s Health Services, a private home care provider with nurses, midwife’s and physiotherapist’s. Nightingale’s is licensed by Dubai Healthcare Authority (DHA) and with their team of experts they can provide you with the necessary support and guidance during difficult times. You can reach the team at Nightingale on 800 UAE who will be able to offer advice or recommend a specialist.