What are the baby blues?

You may feel very emotional between days 2 and 5 following the arrival of your baby. This is known as the baby blues and while it affects people differently, you will probably feel very tearful and cry at the slightest thing. This is as a result of tiredness, the hormonal changes that accompany the early postnatal transition and the overwhelming journey you have just been on. It is entirely normal to feel like this but you can help yourself by sleeping when the baby sleeps, so you can catch up and feel more human. Sleep deprivation makes everything seem worse. You should accept support from your midwife, partner and family members and give yourself time to adjust.
Do I have postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression affects one in ten women; the symptoms are similar to the baby blues but more intense.

Symptoms may include:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Panic attacks or feeling trapped
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Exhaustion
  • Low mood for periods of more than a week
  • Tearfulness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of interest in yourself and your baby
  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling guilty, rejected or inadequate
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Feeling unable to cope
  • Difficulty sleeping yet constantly tired
  • Physical signs of tension, such as headaches, stomach pains or blurred vision
  • Lack of appetite
  • Reduced sex drive.

You may experience a few of these symptoms but that does not necessarily mean you are depressed. If you are concerned visit your GP to discuss how you feel.

You are at risk of postnatal depression up to one year after the birth of your baby, six months being the most common time for diagnosis. Postnatal depression can resolve itself eventually but you do not interact and respond to your baby in the same way you would if you didn't have postnatal depression, so it is important not to ignore these symptoms and get treatment.  General support from health visitors and family and friends can be effective but for some women anti-depressants are required. Treatment will improve your health and therefore your babys development. Your relationship with your partner and family will also benefit.

A severe form of depression is postnatal psychosis. It is a serious mental illness triggered by a hormonal and chemical change in the body. It is vital that you seek medical assistance as hallucinations, delusions and irrational suicidal thoughts can occur.
Can my partner get postnatal depression?

New research has shown that 1 in 25 men will suffer from postnatal depression. The symptoms are similar to that in women. Pressures of fatherhood including financial worries and lifestyle changes can contribute to feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially since the mother is getting most of the attention during her pregnancy.
There are a number of risk factors which are:

  • First time fathers;
  • Older fathers;
  • Stressful situations that reoccur;
  • Relationship difficulties;
  • Having a partner who suffers with postnatal depression.

Your GP is key to helping in this situation, they can provide you with information about local groups or support groups such as MIND or SANE in your community.

How do I fit everything into a day with feeding etc?

It is a difficult transition from being pregnant to having a baby that is completely dependent on you. You can help yourself by making sure you sleep when your baby sleeps as sleep deprivation makes everything worse. If you are well rested it helps to prioritize what can wait and what canít. Family and friends want to help so when they ask if there is anything they can do, it is useful to be honest and say yes! Your partner may be on paternity leave so can help you run the house in the early days, until you can adjust and get used to caring for your baby. Donít ever think you are alone in your chaos. Everyone has some kind of disruption when the baby comes home, some just disguise it better.

Does breast feeding exclude my partner from being involved with looking after our baby?

As only you can breast feed there is an element of exclusion in this particular area of care. However, the benefits of breast feeding far outweigh this. Once breast feeding is established your partner can feed the baby expressed breast milk if they wish. Just because your partner canít feed the baby it doesnít mean they will not have any contact with the baby. There are a few ways to ensure that dad handles the baby as much as mum. These include:

  • Taking charge of bathing.
  • Changing their clothes.
  • Spending time calming and massaging the baby.
  • Changing the babyís nappy.
  • Skin-to-skin contact.
  • Carrying the baby in a sling when out and about.

When can I resume my sex life with my partner?

It is advisable not to have sexual intercourse with your partner until your bleeding has stopped. This is because during that period of time there are parts of your uterus that are unhealed and susceptible to infection.

Sometimes I think it would be easier to go out and work instead of staying at home with the baby?

Having a baby can be the most rewarding job anyone can have. It is however one of the hardest too. Whether it is you or your partner at home caring for the new baby it is important to remember that each one of you needs some time out. It is too easy to assume the other parent is having an Ďeasierí time. Working can be stressful too and a mutual respect for each other and the roles they are doing is vital in keeping your relationship healthy.

I had a traumatic birth and I am worried it will affect my relationship with my baby?

This is a valid point. If you had an unsatisfactory birth and have not dealt with it in the correct manner, it can affect the way you behave around your baby. This can also affect the father too. If you do see your birth as traumatic or it didnít go as planned, it is so important to debrief with a member of the team that was with you during this time. If this briefing did not happen at or around the time of birth or if you were not sure of your feelings at the time, you can call the hospital switch board and contact the supervisor of midwives on call. You will be able to arrange a time to discuss your birth with a community midwife, midwifery manager or supervisor. They will access your hospital notes and help you talk through what happened. Remember, if you are disappointed with your birth experience or had a traumatic time, the best way to deal with it is to talk it through with someone that can help you deal with your feelings.