​Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (also known as postnatal depression) is a type of depression that you may face after childbirth. It is normal to experience some mild form of depression after labour and delivery of your child, and the symptoms may last for up to two weeks. However, if your symptoms are persistent and last up to a few months after birth, then you may be suffering from postpartum depression. It is a serious illness that can make you feel very sad, hopeless and worthless. You may have trouble caring for and bonding with your baby.

Postpartum depression occurs because of the major hormonal changes that your body goes through during pregnancy and childbirth. Sometimes it can be caused by other factors such as:

  • Miscarriage or stillbirth

  • Previous history of clinical depression, bipolar disorder or postpartum depression

  • Lack of support from family or friends

  • Having a sick or colicky baby (that is, a baby who cries a lot despite being healthy)

  • Other factors causing stress in your life (such as financial pressure)

In some cases, postpartum depression may even lead to postpartum psychosis, that is, extreme mood swings, hallucinations, and possibly the need for hospitalization. 

Signs and symptoms of postpartum depression include:​

  • ​Extreme mood swings

  • Lack of feelings of attachment with your new-born

  • Social withdrawal

  • Severe anxiety and panic

  • Excessive irritability

  • Feeling overwhelmed, worthless or guilty

  • Excessive crying

  • Reduced concentration

  • Reduced or increased appetite 

  • Excessive sleepiness, or inability to sleep (known as insomnia)

  • Difficulty in concentration

  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming your baby​​

If you are feeling confused or unsettled for many weeks or months after the birth of your baby, don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed and seek help immediately. You can obtain additional information and medical advice from the doctors working with the Mind and Brain Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.​

You can also consult your gynaecologist working with the Women's Health Care Service Line to guide you during this phase of life. 
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

There is no medical test to accurately diagnose postpartum depression. Your doctor will question you about your symptoms in detail in order to distinguish between normal “baby blues” and full-blown depression. It is important to remain honest and discuss your symptoms fully so that the best possible treatment plan may be devised for you.

Your doctor may also order blood tests to check your thyroid function, as sometimes these symptoms are known to be caused by low thyroid. You may also have to fill out a detailed questionnaire to answer further questions.​​

Treatment options for postpartum depression include: 

  • Psychotherapy: discussing your feelings with an expert can help you to deal with some of your emotional issues and take better care of your and your baby’s health.

  • Anti-depressants: your doctor may prescribe anti-depressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These medications are safer and generally cause fewer side effects than other types of antidepressants. If you are breast-feeding your baby, any medication you take will enter your breast milk. However, some antidepressants can be used during breast-feeding with little risk of side effects for your baby. You must never stop taking antidepressants without talking to your doctor first. Stopping treatment abruptly or missing several doses can cause withdrawal symptoms, and quitting suddenly may cause a sudden worsening of depression. 

It is also important to take good care of yourself. Following are some useful tips to care for yourself post child birth:

  • Get as much rest as you can

  • Accept help from family and friends

  • Connect with other new moms, such as in a group therapy

  • Create time to take care of yourself by eating right and paying attention to your own health

  • Avoid alcohol and recreational drugs​​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​​

Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

​The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.