Antenatal and postnatal depression are medical conditions. It is important that they are identified (diagnosed) by a Doctor who can assess the signs and symptoms, what is happening for the new mother and her family. Other services can help to identify some aspects of postnatal depression but it must be confirmed by a Doctor.
Most women with postnatal depression can be supported by and treated appropriately by their Doctor, General Practitioner. Other women will see a Psychiatrist because they choose to and others because their needs are more medically complex.
When should you go to the Doctor?
You can visit your Doctor at any time if you are concerned about how you are feeling or coping with the demands of life and family. Some indicators that you may look for include:
- If you feel like your feelings and difficulties are getting stuck and are interfering with things you need to do despite all the things that you have tried.
- If your partner, family member or friend is suggesting that you visit your Doctor because he/she is worried about you and isn't sure how to help you.
- If you also feel physically unwell, have significantly interrupted sleep and weight loss/gain.
- If you are having thoughts that are worrying or scaring you about hurting yourself, baby/child, suicide or confusion.
What will your Doctor do?
Some of the things the Doctor will do include:
- Ask questions that will help him/her to work out if you have antenatal or postnatal depression.
- Organize some blood tests to rule out other conditions that may contribute to how you feel.
- Talk to you about what you would like to happen if antenatal or postnatal depression are diagnosed - talk to you about different types of treatment and support, including medication.
- Arrange to see you regularly to monitor you, provide support and ongoing treatment.
- Refer you to other services for additional support.
What will you need to do when you see the Doctor?
- Try to talk as openly as possible about how difficult things can be for you - it can be hard to be really honest about these feelings but it is important for the Doctor to get a clear picture, including telling him/her of any alternative therapies you maybe using.
- Take your partner, family member or friend with you so they can remember things you might not and so they can learn more about antenatal and postnatal depression to be able to help you more.
- Try to make a double appointment if you can so that you feel you have time to talk.
- Make some notes before you go to the appointment so you can remember things.
- Tell the Doctor if you don't understand something, ask as many questions as you need to, including asking the Doctor what back up services there are if things get worse after hours.