Positive mental health is critical to overall well-being during pregnancy and after childbirth. It includes a wide range of emotional and psychological issues which may be experienced during and after pregnancy, such as stress, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
The most common form of maternal mental health issue is postpartum depression (PPD), which affects approximately 1 in 5 new mothers.
Postpartum depression is a type of depression that occurs soon after childbirth. It’s different from the “baby blues” that many new mothers experience, which typically occurs within the first two weeks after delivery and only lasts a few days to a week.
Postpartum depression, on the other hand, lasts longer than two weeks and can significantly impact the ability to function in day-to-day life as well as bonding with the newborn child, so early recognition is really important.
Postpartum depression symptoms and risk factors
The symptoms of PPD can vary from person to person but typically include feelings of sadness, anxiety, irritability, and guilt. Sometimes they can also include fatigue, difficulty sleeping, and changes in appetite. These symptoms can be challenging to manage and can interfere with a mother’s ability to care for herself and her child.
There are many risk factors for postpartum depression, such as a history of mental health issues, lack of social support, unforeseen circumstances during pregnancy, and complications during childbirth. However, it can also appear without any obvious risk factors.
Not only is good mental health essential for overall wellness, but it can also impact the child’s mental and emotional well-being.
For example, studies have shown that postpartum depression can negatively impact a child’s cognitive and social development if not treated promptly.
Treatment for postpartum depression
Fortunately, there are several effective treatments available for PPD. The choice of treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms, individual preferences, and other factors.
Some treatment options for PPD include:
One of the most effective treatments for PPD is psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy. A therapist can help to explore feelings and concerns and provide tools to better cope with the challenges of parenting. Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) is a particular type of psychotherapy that has been shown to be effective for PPD.
Antidepressants can also be helpful in treating PPD. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are a type of antidepressant that is often prescribed for PPD. These drugs can take several weeks to start working and may cause side effects such as nausea, dizziness, and changes in sexual function. However, they have been shown to be effective in improving mood and reducing symptoms of PPD.
Engaging in self-care activities such as exercise, yoga, and meditation can also help alleviate symptoms of PPD. Women with PPD should aim to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet, and make time for themselves. A supportive network of family and friends can also be beneficial during this time.
Participating in a support group for women with PPD can be helpful in reducing feelings of isolation and providing a supportive environment for women to share their experiences. These groups can be found through healthcare providers, community centres, or online.
Find help for postpartum depression in London
It’s important to seek treatment for PPD as soon as possible, as symptoms can become more severe if left untreated. Women with PPD can talk to their healthcare provider about their options for treatment, who will work with them to find the best approach for their individual needs.
At Schoen Clinic Chelsea we’re committed to providing highly specialised treatment for a range of mental health problems. We also offer a variety of helpful group therapies which may be beneficial to those experiencing PPD.
If you’re experiencing depression or another mental health problem and need support, please feel free to get in touch with our team.
This page was reviewed by Dr James Woolley, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist at Schoen Clinic Chelsea on 4th May 2023.