Postnatal depression (PND) is when a woman experiences depression that develops between one month and up to one year after the birth of a baby. Postnatal depression affects up to one in seven women (almost 16 per cent) giving birth in Australia.
Normal feelings or postnatal depression?
It's normal for women and their partners to experience a wide range of emotional experiences during pregnancy and the year following birth (the perinatal period). Physical changes in pregnancy can affect your emotions and mood, and being a parent may be different from your expectations.
Up to 80 per cent of women experience the baby blues in the early days after the birth due to changes in hormone levels. Women can feel tearful or overwhelmed but this usually passes within a few days and without specific care apart from support and understanding.
However, if you experience symptoms of depression for more than two weeks, and/or these feelings are affecting your life, it's time to get help. By discussing your experiences and using the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), a health professional can help you to define if the symptoms are within the 'normal' range, or whether they could indicate you're experiencing postnatal depression and/or anxiety.
If you think your partner or baby would be better off without you, or you are having thoughts of suicide or harming yourself or your baby, seek professional help immediately.
Where to get help
The earlier you seek support, the faster you can recover. Talking to a health professional, like a GP or Maternal, Child and Family Health Nurse, is a good start. Many women are relieved to be able to put a name to what they're feeling; they find that they don't feel so alone or overwhelmed. Health professionals can provide effective treatments for postnatal depression, and Medicare rebates are available.