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Post Natal Depression

Puerperal Psychosis

This is a totally different condition to postnatal depression. It affects approximately one in five hundred to a thousand new mothers and usually occurs within the first six weeks after birth. The mother may experience delusions, hallucinations and erratic behaviour; family members commonly notice these first. This condition is considered a medical emergency so it is very important for family members or friends to contact the woman’s GP if they are concerned. Usually this condition is treated in hospital, preferably in a mother and baby unit, where, if appropriate, the mother can have her baby with her.

As with all the conditions above there are a number of things that can be done to help. It is very important to contact your GP or health visitor to find out about the options and choices available. Remember that different options suit different people and their varying symptoms and circumstances.

The Health Visitor

Your health visitor can be extremely helpful in helping you acknowledge your depression and by getting treatment and support for your postnatal depression, initially by using a tool known as the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale( EPDS) or a mood assessment tool.  This is a questionnaire designed to focus solely on the mother not the baby. It is a self-report questionnaire that the mother fills in on her own while the health visitor is present. It should be used routinely with all new mothers, not just the women that health visitors think might be suffering from postnatal depression. It consists of ten short statements about how she has been feeling in the last seven days which the mother has to grade. It is usually used between six and eight weeks after the baby’s birth and gives the mother an opportunity to talk about her feelings. Some women may feel assessed or judged by this tool; however it should not be seen as threatening but as a useful tool to identify how she is feeling. Health visitors can offer support to mothers, for example by visiting them in their own home on a regular basis, so allowing them to talk about their feelings.

Some women may not feel comfortable talking to health professionals about their negative feelings and thoughts, and may mistakenly believe that that their child might be taken away from them if they do share how they are really feeling. This is not the case, health professionals are there to help.

Your GP

If you think you have postnatal depression, it is important to speak to your GP. For some women, just the consultation and the acknowledgement between the GP and the woman that there is a depressive illness, possibly mild, are enough and they may not require any other treatment.  However, your GP may suggest anti-depressants which can be extremely useful in aiding recovery. Some women may be anxious about taking medication while breastfeeding; however there are some anti-depressants that are considered safe for use by breastfeeding mothers. It is important to discuss this with your GP.

Your GP may suggest counselling or a referral to the Community Mental Health team who should have expertise in this area. Postnatal depression support groups can also be extremely helpful as you will be with other mothers who are experiencing similar feelings. Your GP or health visitor should know of postnatal depression support groups in your area. These can help to reduce feelings of isolation as being aware that other women have had similar thoughts and feelings can be hugely reassuring.

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