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Time2change - Laois CBT


Katie O'Hara - Reg. Psych., M.Sc. CBT

What is Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression is a term used to cover feelings of depression after having a baby. At first many women are tired, feel unsure and are not able to cope when they come home from hospital. This normally passes within a couple of weeks. However, for mothers with postnatal depression, things do not improve:

'I was so looking forward to having this baby, and now I feel utterly miserable. What's the matter with me?'

'The labour went beautifully - much better than I expected, and everyone's been marvellous, especially Jim... So why aren't I over the moon?'

'I was so afraid that there'd be something wrong with her? Perhaps, I'm not cut out to be a mother?'

These women are not ungrateful or unmotherly: they are experiencing one of the most common complications of childbirth, from which too many women still suffer unnecessarily in silence - Post-Natal Depression. Puerperal Psychosis is the most extreme form of postnatal mood change, it is fairly rare, affecting 1 in 500 new mothers. Symptoms are evident within a short time after the birth and include the mother becoming restless, mildly confused and unable to sleep, sufferer loses contact with reality. Medical intervention is vital.



This is the most common symptom of PND. It means feeling low, unhappy and wretched for much or all of the time. Sometimes the depression is worse at particular times of the day, like mornings or evenings. Sometimes there are good days and bad - which are the more disappointing because the previous good day raised hopes of getting better.Sometimes it feels that life is not worth living, at a time when it should be at its most joyous.


Often accompanies the depression. It can be shown towards any other children, and occasionally the baby, but most of all the partner, who may well wonder what on earth is wrong!


All mothers get pretty weary, but the depressed mother is so utterly exhausted that she may think that there is something physically wrong with her.



However, when at last she gets to bed, she may find out that she cannot fall asleep - or if she does, that she wakes early, even if her partner is feeding the baby that night.


Loss of Apetite

Depressed mothers usually haven't the time or the interest to eat, and this contributes to feeling irritable and run down. Some women, though, eat too much, for comfort, but then feel guilty and uncomfortable about getting fat.


Loss of enjoyment (or 'You're no fun anymore')

What used to be a pleasure is unappealing, what used to be of interest is a bore. This may be especially true of sex. Some women regain interest in sex (if they ever lost it) before the 6 weeks postnatal examination, but PND usually takes any enthusiasm away. The partner who seeks to share the comfort and excitement of intercourse meets reluctance or a rebuff, putting further strain on the relationship


Not coping

PND causes a feeling of having too little time, doing nothing well and not being able to do anything about it. A new routine, to cope with the baby as well as everyting else, is difficult to establish.


s acute. Often it takes the form of being afraid to be alone with the baby, who might scream the place down or not feed or choke or be dropped or harmed in some other way. Some depressed mothers perceive the baby as 'it', instead of feeling that they have given birth to the loveliest, most adorable creature in the world, they feel detached from the infant. They can't see that it's all that beautiful - indeed, they may find it a rather strange, mysterious little being, whose thoughts (if any) can't be fathomed and whose unpredictable needs and emotions have somehow to be satisfied. The task of a new mother who hasn't yet 'fallen in love' with her baby is extremely difficult. The love comes in the end, but usually when the baby is older and more interesting.

However, PND may develop even when love is strong. The mother then worries desperately in case she should lose her precious baby through infection, mishandling, faulty development or a 'cot death'. Snuffles cause her terrible worry, she frets over how much weight has been (or not been) gained, she is alarmed if the baby is crying or if it is too silent - has its breathing stopped? So she wants constant reassurance from her partner, the Health Visitor, the doctor, her family, the woman next door - anyone really!

Anxiety may also make the mother concerned about her own health. She may panic when her pulse races and her heart thumps and then she may feel she has heart disease or be on the brink of a stroke. She feels so drained - Is there some dreadful illness? Will she ever have any energy again? Her feelings are so odd and unusual - Is She going mad?


· The terror of being left alone with all this can cause even the most capable women to cling desperately to her partner, not wanting him to go to work.

Many thanks to PND Ireland for making this information available.

Further information can be found at