DepressionThis is the most common symptom of PND. It means feeling low, unhappy and wretched for much or all of the time. Sometimes the depression is worse at particular times of the day, like mornings or evenings. Sometimes there are good days and bad - which are the more disappointing because the previous good day raised hopes of getting better.
Sometimes it feels that life is not worth living, at a time when it should be at its most joyous.
IrritabilityOften accompanies the depression. It can be shown towards any other children, and occasionally the baby, but most of all the partner, who may well wonder what on earth is wrong!
FatigueAll mothers get pretty weary, but the depressed mother is so utterly exhausted that she may think that there is something physically wrong with her.
SleeplessnessHowever, when at last she gets to bed, she may find out that she cannot fall asleep - or if she does, that she wakes early, even if her partner is feeding the baby that night.
Loss of ApetiteDepressed mothers usually haven't the time or the interest to eat, and this contributes to feeling irritable and run down. Some women, though, eat too much, for comfort, but then feel guilty and uncomfortable about getting fat.
Loss of enjoyment (or "You're no fun anymore")What used to be a pleasure is unappealing, what used to be of interest is a bore. This may be especially true of sex. Some women regain interest in sex (if they ever lost it) before the 6 weeks postnatal examination, but PND usually takes any enthusiasm away. The partner who seeks to share the comfort and excitement of intercourse meets reluctance or a rebuff, putting further strain on the relationship.
Not copingPND causes a feeling of having too little time, doing nothing well and not being able to do anything about it. A new routine, to cope with the baby as well as everyting else, is difficult to establish.
Anxiety..is acute. Often it takes the form of being afraid to be alone with the baby, who might scream the place down or not feed or choke or be dropped or harmed in some other way. Some depressed mothers perceive the baby as 'it', instead of feeling that they have given birth to the lovliest, most adorable creature in the world, they feel detached from the infant. They can't see that it's all that beautiful - indeed, they may find it a rather strange, mysterious little being, whose thoughts (if any) can't be fathomed and whose unpredictable needs and emotions have somehow to be satisfied. The task of a new mother who hasn't yet 'fallen in love' with her baby is extremely difficult. The love comes in the end, but usually when the baby is older and more interesting.
However, PND may develop even when love is strong. The mother then worries desperately in case she should lose her precious baby through infection, mishandling, faulty development or a 'cot death'. Snuffles cause her terrible worry, she frets over how much weight has been (or not been) gained, she is alarmed if the baby is crying or if it is too silent - has its breathing stopped? So she wants constant reassurance from her partner, the Health Visitor, the doctor, her family, the woman next door - anyone really!
Anxiety may also make the mother concerned about her own health. She may panic when her pulse races and her heart thumps and then she may feel she has heart disease or be on the brink of a stroke. She feels so drained - Is there some dreadful illness? Will she ever have any energy again? Her feelings are so odd and unusual - Is She going mad?
THE ANSWER IS NO!
The terror of being left alone with all this can cause even the most capable women to cling desperately to her partner, not wanting him to go to work.