University of Cape Town Associate Professor, Simone Honikman says more can be done in the treatment and prevention of postnatal depression. This kind of depression is experienced by mothers after giving birth.
Honikman, who is also the Director of the university’s Perinatal Mental Health Project, says mothers who do not have support and those who live in poverty are prone to suffer from this mental illness.
According to Honikman, in most cases, women experience depression symptoms before the birth of the child.
“I think that it is important to realise that depression in the pregnancy period and the postnatal period – what we call the perinatal period – it seldom happens out of the blue. When the baby is born, it is usually there for us to pick up during the pregnancy.”
South African Depression and Anxiety Group Clinical Psychologist Dessy Tzoneva says the symptoms of postnatal depression are similar to those of depression in general.
“Some of the things you could particularly look out for is feeling like you cannot bond with the baby or you feel anxious around your child; you do not feel much interest; you might be feeling like you want to cry; like you want to get away.”
Tzoneva has cautioned against confusing what she calls “normal baby blues” with postnatal depression.
“Sometimes after a week of birth, for a week or two, you might feel a bit down, and teary and little bit overwhelmed. But that eases within the second week if it’s just the baby blues.”
But if these feelings last beyond the two weeks, Tzoneva says there may be a need to consider postnatal depression.
She adds that in severe cases the mother might be thinking of committing suicide or even killing the child. In this case a patient is hospitalised and put on anti-depressants.
Click below to listen to Clinical Psychologist Dessy Tzoneva:
Treatment for patients with moderate symptoms includes talking therapies. Honikman has urged pregnant women to pay attention to depression symptoms during pregnancy so that they are treated early.
“We can do a lot in terms of prevention. We can do a lot in terms of treatment to get people better.”
Click below to listen to Professor Simone Honikman: