Postnatal depression
Adjusting to life as a mother can be difficult. In fact, for many women, having a baby is the most significant life-changing event they will ever experience. Adjusting to this major life change, as well as coping with the day-to-day demands of a new baby, can make some women more likely to experience depression at this time, particularly if they’ve experienced depression in the past.
Postnatal depression (PND) af ects 14 per cent of new mothers Postnatal depression has the same signs and symptoms as in Australia. As with depression, PND is common. On average, depression. Women with PND can experience a prolonged one in five people wil experience depression at some point in period of low mood, reduced interest in activities, tiredness and their lives – one in four females and one in six males. Around disturbance of sleep and appetite and negative thoughts and one mil ion Australian adults and 100,000 young people live with feelings. To find out about the general symptoms of depression, go to the series of depression checklists at
The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (see below) is
a set of questions designed to see if a new mother may have depression. The answers will not provide a diagnosis – for that Like depression which occurs at any other time, postnatal you need to see a doctor or other health professional. The depression doesn’t have one definite cause – but it’s likely to answers will tell you however, if you or someone you know, has result from a combination of factors including: symptoms that are common in women with PND. • a past history of depression and/or anxiety If you have concerns that you or someone you know has PND, • depression during the current pregnancy To complete this set of questions, mothers should circle the number next to the response which comes closest to how they • a family history of mental disorders • experiencing severe ‘baby blues’ 1 I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. • a prolonged labour and/or delivery complications • a lack of practical, financial and/or emotional support 2 I have looked forward with enjoyment to things. 1 Rather less than I used to 2 Definitely less than I used to • having an unsettled baby (e.g. difficulties with feeding • having unrealistic expectations about motherhood 3 I have blamed myself unnecessarily when things went wrong. 3 Yes, most of the time 2 Yes, some of the time • making work adjustments (e.g. stopping or re-starting work). for more information or beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636
Postnatal depression
The total score is calculated by adding together the numbers you circled for each of the 10 items. The higher the score, the more likely it is that the person completing the questionnaire is 4 I have been anxious or worried for no good reason. Scores provide only a rough guide as to whether a
woman has postnatal depression. For a full diagnosis, it
is important to see a doctor.
5 I have felt scared or panicky for no very good reason. There is a range of effective treatments for managing PND. Psychological treatment
6 Things have been getting on top of me. Psychological treatment, which is often referred to as ‘talking therapy’ has general y been found to be the most ef ective way of 3 Yes, most of the time I haven’t been able to cope at all treating postnatal depression. Psychological treatment can help by: 2 Yes, sometimes I haven’t been coping as well as usual • changing negative thoughts and feelings 1 No, most of the time I have coped quite well • encouraging involvement in activities 0 No, I have been coping as well as ever 7 I have been so unhappy that I have had difficulty sleeping. • preventing depression from getting serious again.
Medication can play an important role in helping people with depression manage from day to day. Some people may worry about how antidepressants will affect a baby who is breastfed. However, remaining on medication can be important in order to avoid significant depression which can have a negative impact If the mother is breastfeeding, specific types of medications are preferred. While a number of factors will influence the 9 I have been so unhappy that I have been crying. choice of antidepressant, tricyclics – Sertraline, Citalopram and Fluvoxamine – have been found to be least likely to cause any The decision to take medication is up to the individual and should be made in consultation with a doctor, after considering the risks and benefits to both the mother and infant. For more 10 The thought of harming myself has occurred to me. details visit or call the beyondblue info line on 1300 22 4636 (local call).
(Further reading: Buist, A. ‘Guidelines for the Use of SSRI’s in pregnant Women’, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Vol. 7, No. 4, for more information or beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636
for more information or beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636
• Look after yourself. Seek support for your own needs by joining a support group, keeping in touch with your family doctor and taking time out. By keeping yourself physically • Seek help and treatment from a doctor or other qualified and mentally healthy, you will be better equipped to support • Seek friendships with other women, including other mums • Expect that a person with postnatal depression can be moody, irritable, volatile, teary and withdrawn. Try not to take what they • Organise childcare or ask friends or family to look after the child/ren occasionally to allow you to have time to yourself.
• Contact a doctor or hospital, if the woman becomes a threat • Make sure you take time to do the things you enjoy like reading a book, listening to music or having a bath. • Spend some time with your partner to help nurture the • A doctor who is a General Practitioner (GP) is a good first
• Develop a support system of friends, family and step. In some cases, the person may be referred to a mental health specialist like a psychiatrist or psychologist. • Restrict visitors when feeling unwell, overwhelmed or tired. For a list of GPs with expertise in treating depression and related disorders visit the beyondblue website and click on Find a Doctor or • Don’t bottle up feelings – discuss them with friends, family call the beyondblue info line on 1300 22 4636 (local call).
Psychiatrists are doctors who specialise in mental health.
They can make medical and psychological assessments, • Practise deep breathing and muscle relaxation techniques.
conduct medical tests and prescribe medication. Some • Try to establish good sleeping patterns.
psychiatrists use psychological treatments.
• Learn about postnatal depression.
Psychologists, Social Workers and Occupational
• Call a postnatal depression support service or mental Therapists specialise in providing non-medical (psychological)
health crisis line if things are getting tough and other help treatment for depression and related disorders. A rebate can now be claimed through Medicare for psychological treatments when your GP, psychiatrist or paediatrician refers you to a registered psychologist, social worker or occupational therapist. This rebate can be claimed for part of the cost for up to 12 individual (18 in exceptional circumstances) and • Remember that postnatal depression is treatable. 12 group sessions in a calendar year. For more details ask • Encourage the woman to see a health professional. Offer to your referring medical practitioner. For a list of mental health professionals providing psychological treatment for which you • Spend time listening, without feeling the need to of er solutions. – Clinical Psychologists: under • Of er to spend time looking after the baby or older children or discuss other childcare options so the mum can have time – Psychologists: under • Offer to help with housework like cooking and cleaning. – Social Workers: under • Let the woman know how well she is doing when she makes – Occupation Therapists: under • Encourage the woman to use some self-help strategies.
for more information or beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636
for more information or beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636
Postnatal depression
beyondblue: the national depression initiative
Black Dog Institute
Information on depression, anxiety and related substance-use Information on depression (including during and after pregnancy) disorders, available treatments and where to get help.
and bipolar disorder – specifical y causes, treatments, symptoms, getting help and current research findings.
beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636
Post and Antenatal Depression Association Inc
Information on depression, anxiety and related substance-use disorders, available treatments and referral only (local call).
Provides information for women and their families affected by beyondblue’s website for young people – information on antenatal and postnatal mood disorders about the causes and depression and how to help a friend.
symptoms of these disorders, as well as types of treatments Suicide Helpline – Victoria
1300 651 251 or
The North Queensland Postnatal Distress
24 hour counselling, crisis intervention, information and referral Support Group (NQPNDG)
Mensline Australia
Information on the causes of PND and recovery patterns of these disorders. There is also information about and contact 1300 789 978 or
details for the North Queensland Postnatal Distress Support 24 hour support for men with family and relationship problems Group and other related services in the area.
especially around family breakdown or separation – this service provides anonymous telephone support, information and referral (local call).
Information on the causes, symptoms and ef ects of post and
antenatal depression – and information about available services. 13 11 14
24 hour counselling, information and referral (local call).
Good Beginnings

Lifeline’s “Just Ask”
Information on parenting children and details of support services 1300 13 11 14
Rural Mental Health Information Service.
Information on parenting children and details of support services – interactive e-health


Developed by medical experts, this is a self-management system for people with depression and anxiety.
Information on parenting children, including a section on
managing postnatal depression, and details of support services
for new parents.

beyondblue: the national depression initiative, 2007.
Information about depression, anxiety and its management.
PO Box 6100, Hawthorn West VIC 3122 T: (03) 9810 6100 Public Health Centres
beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636 Community public health centres also provide help and advice F: (03) 9810 6111 E: [email protected] on child and maternal health issues. See your local telephone for more information or beyondblue info line 1300 22 4636



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