Post Natal Depression

Post Natal Depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder


The Baby Blues

The ‘baby blues’ are so common they are considered normal for new mothers. They usually begin 2 – 4 days after your baby is born. You may have crying spells, increased feelings of vulnerability, irritability, loneliness and weariness. Although you may find it distressing, the baby blues will pass quickly, usually within a few weeks, with support from your partner, family and friends.


Puerperal psychosis

Puerperal psychosis is the most extreme, and rarest, form of postnatal mood change. It affects 1 in 500 new mothers. Puerperal means the six weeks after childbirth and psychosis is any form of mental illness in which you lose contact with reality. Symptoms begin soon after the birth, usually with the mother becoming restless, mildly confused and unable to sleep. This form of depression usually requires hospital care.


Post Natal Depression

Postnatal depression falls somewhere between the baby blues and puerperal psychosis. It may affect up to 1 in 6 new mothers, although some experts believe it affects more than this. Symptoms may start as baby blues and then get worse, or they may take some time to develop. It may be most obvious when your baby is 4 – 6 months old.

Around 15% of new mothers in Ireland experience postnatal depression.The earlier it is recognised, diagnosed and treated, the faster you will recover. Postnatal depression can last for longer than three months and even years if not treated. Often a family member or friend will notice that there is something wrong before you do.

Causes of Post Natal Depression

  • Birth Experience
  • Biological Factors
  • Changes in Lifestyle
  • Relationships
  • Stressful Life Events
  • Personal History
  • Images of Motherhood

Signs and Symptoms

  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Panic Attacks
  • Sleep Problems
  • Tiredness
  • Concentration Issues
  • Appetite issues
  • Tearfulness
  • Obsessive Behaviour

Self-Help Strategies

  • Talk to your partner, husband, family, GP or public health nurse.
  • Be open about feelings and worries.
  • Rest.
  • Eat well.
  • Ask for help with practical issues e.g housework, cooking etc.
  • Set aside time for relaxing with family and friends.
  • Organise a daily treat.
  • Find time to have fun.

Treatment Options

  • Medication
  • Counselling
  • Hospitalisation

To learn more about Post Natal Depression please refer to the following link:,_Family_and_Friends.pdf


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Going through a traumatic experience of a difficult pregnancy, a loss, and/or having one or more babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit can affect parents’ emotions in very different ways. No matter how short or long your baby’s stay is or what the complications are, your reaction may be mild or severe. It is completely normal to feel intense sadness, grief, guilt, shame, anger, disbelief and numbness going through this time, especially when your baby reaches milestones or suffers setbacks. In fact, your baby’s hospitalization may be one of the most stressful times you ever experience.

It would probably then not surprise you to learn that childbirth experiences place parents at risk of developing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is classified as an anxiety disorder, and it is characterized by a collection of persistent, debilitating physical and emotional reactions to traumatic, scary or life-threatening experiences. To make matters more complicated, depression can co-occur with PTSD because of the powerful distress, grief and new caregiving routines that parents are thrust into in the midst of medical procedures, doctors and information overload.

It’s normal to have many of the symptoms of PTSD for some time after any traumatic event. This can last for several days. Be watchful if you find you or your partner is becoming immobilized by these feelings or if they aren’t going away, particularly if they last longer than a month. Also, notice if it is interfering with your life, relationships, your ability to bond with and care for your child or your performance at work or school. Signs you should ask for help also include problems sleeping, considering the use of drugs or alcohol to cope, feeling hopeless about your life or having suicidal thoughts. Even if you’re just experiencing a few symptoms, treatment can go a long way to helping you heal and give you emotional relief. This is why it’s so important to be evaluated by a healthcare professional who can give you options for treatment.


In general there are three broad types of symptoms for PTSD:

Intrusive Memories

  • Recurrent and intrusive recollections of the traumatic event, including images, thoughts or perceptions.
  • Upsetting dreams about the traumatic event.
Avoidance / Numbing

  • Trying to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event.
  • Feeling emotionally numb.
  • Avoiding things that remind you of the event.
  • Hopelessness about the future. Memory problems.
  • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
Anxiety / Emotional Arousal

  • Irritablity or anger.
  • Overwhelming guilt or shame.
  • Self-destructive behaviour, such as drinking too much.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Being easily startled or frightened


Research has shown that the following strategies can help you receive emotional support while your child is in the NICU and afterwards:

  • Consult with a psychologist, counselor or physician about therapy and/or medications that can help with PTSD. You can ask for an initial consultation to see if you and the person you choose are a good match for working together.
  • Find peer-to-peer support.
  • Seek out a support group within your hospital.
  • Consider writing, journaling or blogging about your experience.

Creating a support system for yourself will go a long way toward helping you and your partner heal emotionally. And, you’ll find that taking care of your emotional health will have far-reaching benefits for coping as a parent, spouse and caregiver.