Recognising the symptoms of postnatal depression

Researchers at the University of York are investigating depression during pregnancy and early motherhood. Currently, around half of cases are missed.

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"I fought in Iraq, but still wasn't safe from postnatal depression"

Major Pip Delamere-Wright is one of the British Army's elite commandos and was the first female soldier to win the prestigious green beret. Her job requires immense physical and mental stamina, which she used in both Kosovo and Iraq.

However, when her baby son was born, she struggled with sleep deprivation and postnatal depression. She said at her lowest point, she felt like walking away and leaving her son all together.

Now she is telling her story to encourage other new mothers to have the courage to seek medical help.

The University of York is conducting a groundbreaking new study to help families and their doctors spot the signs of post-natal depression. It may also screen mothers for depression at the same time as they go for scans.

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'Effective treatment relies on identifying depression'

The BaBY project (Born and Bred in Yorkshire) is a research study following a large group of mothers, their partners and babies from pregnancy onwards. It aims to find out more about the health and wellbeing of babies and their parents during pregnancy, labour and after birth.

Chief Investigator Professor Simon Gilbody from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York and the Hull York Medical School leads the project. He says the problem is not the treatment it is the identification:

"Clinical depression is an important problem for mothers, babies and families. Help can be offered when depression is identified, either through social support or specific treatments such as psychological therapy or medication. However, effective treatment relies on depression being identified in the first place."

– Chief Investigator Professor Simon Gilbody

What is postnatal depression?

The depressive illness affects around one in ten women, according to statistics.

It starts within 2 months of giving birth, however women suffering antenatal stress or stress during pregnancy could experience postnatal depression.

There is an extensive list of symptoms, such as being irritable, feeling anxious, hopeless, not sleeping, losing interest in sexual intercourse, feeling guilty and unable to cope.

Some women may develop suicidal thoughts. In these circumstances the advice is to see a GP urgently.

Midwives, health visitors and GPs are able to refer cases.

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