Postnatal depression | Know the signs

Posted on February 17th, 2015

For some, the post-pregnancy period is anything but magical. According to statistics, 13% of moms suffer from postnatal depression (PND). Here’s how to spot the signs.

According to statistics, 13% of moms suffer from postnatal depression (PND). “This statistic increases in middle-to low-income countries,” says counselling psychologist and researcher, Tamryn Coats from the Akeso Psychiatric Clinic in Parktown, Johannesburg.

Research from the Perinatal Mental Health Project in the Western Cape has shown that 30 – 50% of moms within specific populations in South Africa suffer from PND. According to the Post Natal Depression Support Association (PNDSA), a recent study in Khayelitsha showed that more than 30% of new moms in that community suffer from PND.

What is postnatal depression?

Having a baby is often a particularly stressful time for the whole family. The hormonal changes your body undergoes, as well as the physical discomfort from the birthing process, contribute to an emotional response that can feel overwhelming.

The definition of postnatal depression is broad. Symptoms can range anywhere from feeling exhausted and disconnected from your baby to paranoa that someone else, or even worse, you yourself, might harm your baby.

“Around 80% of new moms experience feelings of sadness, tearfulness, feeling ‘down’, irritability and mood swings shortly after birth. This is considered very normal as your body and lifestyle adjust to the new baby, and is called the ‘baby blues’. However, when these feelings persist for more than 3 to 4 weeks, a diagnosis of postnatal depression can be considered,” says Coats.

Symptoms of postnatal depression

  • Sadness
  • Tearfulness
  • Constant fatigue
  • Lack of concentration and energy
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Loss of pleasure and interest
  • Sleeping and eating difficulties
  • Problems with bonding with your baby
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Thoughts of suicide and/or harming yourself.

Celebs who suffered from postnatal depression

  • Brooke Shields talked publicly about her own depression after the birth of her first child in May 2003. Watch the interview here. 
  • Drew Barrymore wrote about her experience in a new memoir and told PEOPLE Magazine that she didn’t have postpartum depression with her first child, Olive (3) and that she felt great. “The second time, I was like ‘Oh, whoa, I see what people talk about now. I understand’. It’s a different type of overwhelming with the second. I really got under the cloud.”
  • Actress Hayden Panettiere, who has previously opened up about her struggle, checked herself into a postnatal depression treatment facility in October 2015. She gave birth to her first child Kaya with fiancé Wladamir Klitschko in December 2014. She said she found PND “really painful and really scary” and argued that more women need support.

Treating postnatal depression

“A lot of moms go through the first year experiencing some or all of the above-mentioned symptoms, thinking that it’s normal to feel this way,” says Coats.

Timeous treatment is extremely important. “PND is a very serious and concerning condition for both mom and baby. Research suggests that the first 1001 days of a baby’s development, from conception to approximately two years of age, are very important in laying the foundation for attachment and how they will relate to others later on. Their brain development is extremely rapid, establishing neural pathways at a rate of one million connections per second between birth and 18 months,” explains Coats.

It is vital for moms experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms to get support immediately so they can better facilitate the needs of their baby during this crucial period.

“Mothers with postnatal depression struggle to feel attached or bond with their babies, and on top of that they often end up feeling guilty for having those feelings or thoughts. Suffering from PND doesn’t mean you are a bad mother. It just means that you need help from a professional or group support,” says Coats.

If you feel you may hurt yourself or your baby, call Akeso’s Psychiatric Intervention Unit on 0861 435 787.

You can also visit for more information.

Living And Loving Staff

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Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals.