Postnatal depression is an illness that occurs within the first six months following childbirth. It is characterised by persistent low mood, loss of interest and enjoyment, poor concentration, sleep disturbance, poor appetite, weight loss, feelings of worthlessness and ideas of self harm and suicide. The symptoms must be present for at least two weeks. If you are depressed, you may be noticeably weepy and worry constantly about your baby’s health. This may lead to sleepless nights. You may think you are a ‘bad mother’ and compare yourself unfavourably with others in your peer group. Suicidal thoughts, fear of harming the baby, irritability and loss of libido are recognised features which may put further strain on you and your relationship.
Yes! The way you are feeling is completely normal for someone suffering from PND, see Symptoms.
According to currently available research evidence, certain types of antidepressant which pass on at low levels in breast milk are thought to be safe to take when breastfeeding. However, data on the longer-term effects of breastfeeding whilst on antidepressants is still lacking. Any decision by your GP or psychiatrist to recommend an antidepressant will be based on a careful assessment of the risks posed by your postnatal depression versus the possible risks of taking an antidepressant whilst breastfeeding.
Pregnancy is a time when you naturally want to do what you think is best for you and your unborn child. For most women they can avoid taking any medication altogether. Some women with mental health problems can come off their psychiatric medication when pregnant and are fine. However, for others, the risk to them and their pregnancy of coming off medication in terms of mental ill health can outweigh the risk posed by the medication to the unborn child. In such cases, a psychiatrist may recommend that you either remain on your current psychiatric medication whilst pregnant or change to alternative medication. If you are on medication, you will need to be monitored closely throughout your pregnancy.