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Do I Have Postnatal Depression?

Graphic image of woman with cloud over her head holding a baby depicting postnatal depression

This is a question I’m asked frequently by mums. And it’s always one I take my time to answer with care because having a diagnosis means different things for different people. Here are some things to consider, how you can find out if you have postnatal depression and what it means…

What is Postnatal Depression? 

Postnatal depression is a Postnatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Firstly I’d like to address that last word ‘disorder’. Though this is the language used in the diagnostic manual I want you to know it is anything but a ‘disorder’. Postnatal depression (or anxiety) is a natural response to unnatural circumstances. Your body and mind aren’t wrong or broken, they’re doing what they need to in order to survive. Whether that’s shutting things down because you need to go slow right now or whether that’s being on high alert and sensitive to any dangers because your brain believes you need protecting right now. 

Essentially, your brain is in survival mode. 

So whilst we diagnose and use terminology such as disorder, you don’t need fixing. You need support so your brain can understand it’s okay, that it can come out of survival mode and start living again.

Signs of postnatal depression include:

  • Feeling sad, low or tearful much of the time

  • Feeling agitated or irritable towards your partner, baby or other children

  • Loss of interest in things that usually bring you joy

  • Feeling tired all the time

  • Difficulty sleeping or needing to sleep more than usual

  • Difficulty concentrating/making decisions

  • Negative thoughts such as feeling you’re not a good enough mother, you’re unable to look after your baby, or your baby doesn’t love you

  • Feelings of guilt, hopelessness and self-blame

  • Feeling anxious that something bad might happen to you or your baby

If you go to the GP they’re likely to ask you to complete the Edinburgh Scale for Postnatal Depression. I’ll post the link further down this article because there are some important things you should consider first. 

What is the Edinburgh Scale for Postnatal Depression?

Image of a woman completing the Edinburgh Scale for postnatal depression on her phone

This is a quantifiable way to signify if you have postnatal depression. 

It is of course a simplified view of postnatal depression, as are all quantifiable tests like this but it is a great starting place if you’re trying to make sense of how you’re feeling. I always suggest you tread lightly with questionnaires like this as the wording can inadvertently make you feel bad about how you feel. 

Take this question as an example:

I have been anxious or worried for no good reason

  •  No, not at all

  •  Hardly ever

  •  Yes, sometimes

  •  Yes, very often

Here, they’re trying to discover whether your anxiety is based on something that is viewed as rational, i.e. something that everyone would naturally feel anxious about, or whether it’s about something that falls outside of this. 

The wording ‘no good reason’ however, suggests that the anxiety that we might be experiencing is without reason. 

Why is this a problem?

Image of a woman sat on the floor behind her sofa with her hands to her chest depicting postnatal depression and anxiety

It’s an issue because our anxiety and worries always stem from something, something that is scary to us. It might not seem rational to others but our brain has picked up on it and is trying to protect us from it for a reason. 

Maybe we’re anxious about the health of our baby or maybe we’re scared that something is going to happen to us and we won’t be there for our baby. This fear doesn’t come from nowhere, it comes from an instinctive part of us that is shouting loudly that we need to be on high alert. To our brain, it is a good reason. If we try to diminish that voice, it will shout louder. 

How to use the Edinburgh Scale for Postnatal Depression

Treat this scale as a starting point to exploring how you feel.

It can feel validating to know that there is a name for what you’re feeling though you should know that in discovering that name, it doesn’t mean there is something inherently wrong with you. Postnatal depression is a symptom rather than a cause. It might be a symptom of your experiences, perhaps a trauma, or maybe it's a symptom of how you’ve been led to believe you need to parent, giving everything you have of yourself, or perhaps it's a symptom of not receiving enough care during this vulnerable postnatal period.

Whatever it is, it is not you. 

Do I Have Postnatal Depression?

If you feel it will help you, you can complete the Edingburgh Scale for Postnatal Depression online here.

You check the boxes that are most appropriate to you for each of the 10 statements it provides.

Postnatal depression is a continuum so though this scale suggests a score of 10 or more indicates a level of depression, it is far more important to consider how you feel and how it is affecting you, rather than relying on a black and white score cut off. Typically the higher the score, the more severe the depression with the highest score being 30. 

Before you complete it, I invite you to consider what you will do following seeing your result. 

  • Are you completing it with a purpose to understand what you’re experiencing? 

  • Are you completing it with a view of feeling validated?

  • Are you completing it with the view it will give you permission to seek support?

Completing it or not, you are always worthy of seeing support if things don’t feel right for you. That might be through your health visitor, GP or a postnatal counsellor like me. 

Take care of yourself

Completing this questionnaire and seeing the result can bring up a variety of emotions so make sure you have a quiet space and some support on hand if you can. 

If you have any questions I am always more than happy to answer them and if you feel you would like my support you can book a free call online here.

And if you don't feel you need therapy support but would like to gain some insight into what you're experiencing you can download a free guide 'Finding Calm in the Postnatal Period' here:

Whatever your feelings, they are valid and whatever your situation, you are worthy of support. 

Take care, 

Claire x

Image of Claire Judd Postnatal Counsellor with the words 'Therapy for mums in survival mode'.

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