• A third of UK mothers experience some form of post-natal depression, with 12% considering self harm
  • Dr. Elisabeth Rosen gives advice for those experiencing post-natal depression
  • 30-year-old Rebecca Lockwood shares her experience with post-natal depression

The study1, conducted by Livi, the digital healthcare platform, surveyed 1,000 UK mothers and found over a quarter (29%) of young mothers (aged 18-24) considered self-harming after giving birth, but they are the least likely age group to ask for support.

The main signs include persistent depression or low mood, lack of energy and lack of interest in the wider world. Problems sleeping, difficulty bonding with your baby and having disturbing thoughts can also be symptoms.

Sadly, such thoughts result in nearly one in eight (12%) new mothers considering self-harm. This is more than twice as common amongst younger parents, with the figure rising to over a quarter for mothers aged 18-24 (29%) and 25-34 (26%).

One of the best ways to address these negative feelings is to talk about them with other people. Unfortunately, however, more than one in seven (15%) say they found it difficult to talk about their post-natal depression, with one in ten (10%) calling it a taboo subject.

This could explain why so many new mothers are reluctant to admit their symptoms and ask for support (15%), despite it being a great way to alleviate the strain. Young mums (18-24) in particular feel uncomfortable asking for help with their babies (22%) and they are the least likely to seek professional advice for their depression (4%). 

An often-overlooked aspect of the condition is that it is not always exclusive to the mother. Over a quarter (27%) of fathers experience depression after their baby is born and a third (33%) of those with symptoms consider self-harm2.

If you or your partner are experiencing symptoms of post-natal depression, there are a number of things you can do to help. 

Dr. Elisabeth Rosen, a doctor specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology at Livi, has given her top five pieces of advice:

1) Talk to family and friends 

Tell them how you’re feeling and don’t be afraid to ask for help with things like looking after the baby, so you can catch up on sleep or socialising.

2) Find local support

If you don’t have anyone to turn to – for example, if you’re a single mother with no friends or family close by – look for local support groups. A doctor should be able to help you find one in your area.

3) Rest

Try not to be a perfectionist. It doesn’t matter if your house doesn’t look immaculate, or all of the chores aren’t done. It’s more important that you catch up on sleep and rest when you can.

4) Eat healthily

Having a baby makes demands on the body, so eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly (or when you can) is crucial.

5) Seek expert help

Your doctor can refer you for a course of therapy with a psychologist. Cognitive behavioural therapy is shown to be effective in treating postnatal depression. Antidepressants may also be recommended in certain cases where depression is severe and other treatments haven’t helped.

Rebecca Lockwood, 30, experienced post-natal depression when she was 24 after the birth of her first child. She said: “For the first six weeks, I would find myself sobbing uncontrollably and feeling helpless. Then I would feel even worse because I was wracked with guilt. At first, I found it hard to ask for help as I was terrified that if anyone knew how I was feeling my baby would be taken away. 

“Eventually I was able to admit to myself how bad I really felt and ask for help from my doctor. It started with medication for a short time and then counselling, CBT and psychotherapy over a 12-month period. This helped and left me feeling a bit better, but it wasn’t until I trained in Neuro Linguistic Programming, timeline therapy and hypnotherapy that I finally felt completely better. 

“I became aware of the judgement I held towards myself and my whole perception shifted as I realised that I needed to be much kinder to myself. I understood how my mind works and why I was behaving the way I was.”

Dr. Rosen adds: “There is an expectation of women that they should feel super happy after having a baby, but many women are hesitant to admit that they don’t feel this way.

“In fact, it’s common for new parents to feel depressed, confused, frustrated, tired and disillusioned – that’s nothing to feel ashamed of. Support and treatments are available, so speak to a doctor, who can help you to work out what the best options are for you. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence.”

For more information and advice about post-natal depression, visit: https://www.livi.co.uk/your-health/help-for-postnatal-depression/