Up to 80% suffer baby blues in the days following childbirth. Symptoms include tearfulness, irritability, and sleeplessness to name a few. Baby blues are however related to a change in hormones and are natural ( Levels of oestrogen, progesterone and other hormones related to conception and birth drop suddenly after the baby is born). If these baby blues persist they might indicate an underlying symptom of post-natal depression (PND). Post-Natal depression, also know as Post-partum depression is a disorder that affects women in the weeks following delivery.
The causes of PND are also unclear but studies carried out by O’Hara 1985, Field et al. 1985; and Gotlib et al. 1991 suggest that PND primarily affects women who suffer from a lack of social support. Typical women affected would be single mothers, those who are in unstable relationships, under financial stress or those who previously suffered from depression/psychological problems prior to pregnancy.
There are varied symptoms for PND, but the most common are sleeplessness, anxiety, panic, exhaustion, a feeling of being overwhelmed and hopelessness.
The statistics tend to vary on PND, but it is thought that between 5-25% of women and 10% of men in the post-natal period suffer from Post-Natal Depression. I personally believe the percentage to be higher as PND is most certainly taboo and not spoken about even among other mothers. It can be an isolating illness which unfortunately affects not only the mother but the baby, parent and other family members.
There are several forms of help available. If the underlying root problem is primarily socio-economic, then treatment aimed at improving circumstances can greatly improve the condition . E.g; childcare, therapy etc.
If the underlying problem is primarily psychological, then medication is available. Anti-depressants are the most usual form of prescription. In severe cases PND can last for months of even years if not treated.
PND can also start for no apparent reason and can even appear after several pregnancies. Also having some of the above symptoms is not an indication that a woman may suffer from PND. A questionnaire, such as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, can be used to help health visitors and GPs to spot PND.
There are several help groups where mums can talk about their situations and figure out where the main stressors in their life are. Post-natal yoga is an excellent outlet for new mothers. Along with doing asanas and pranayama which increases endorphins, it also decreases overall stress and tension. Meeting other mothers from the area and discussing topics related to mothering provides a safe environment for mothers to communicate their feelings and not feel so isolated. Yoga encourages acceptance and awareness of the present moment and through this awareness comes empowerment!