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Feeling blue in pregnancy and after birth

Pregnancy and birth are traditionally a cause for celebration, but the journey through these significant life transitions can be difficult and for some women low feelings or depression can set in. You might be interested to know that studies show that at least 15% of mothers say they have felt depressed after birth, and the number in pregnancy is similar. Many more feel low at times, or stressed, but would not be classified as depressed. You might have heard of 'the baby blues' which often come about in the days after birth, and then pass.

Some women feel guilty for feeling low or simply for struggling and find it hard to admit their feelings or reach out for help. But depression manifests in many different ways, and has a wide range of underlying causes, including hormonal changes. It is not a mother's 'fault'. Fortunately depression during pregnancy and after birth is widely recognised and there is a wide network of support for women who feel low. A good place to start is to visit your GP. As a family practitioner your GP can assess your situation. He or she will combine their experience with any useful clinical tests and offer advice and referral, if necessary, to help you feel better.

For a mother, receiving treatment will be a relief in the short term, and in the long term can reduce the likelihood of future episodes of depression or mental illness. Addressing the problem is also likely to reduce pressure on the parents' relationship.

For a baby, the sooner a mother's depression is alleviated the better. A baby whose mother has depression or significant anxiety in pregnancy and/or the first year after birth is at a higher than average risk of developing emotional and behavioural difficulties later in life. Taking early action is well worth it.