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How to deal with postnatal mental health problems

Questions to ask the husband or relatives
• When did you notice the problem? The different types of postnatal mental health problems
begin at different times after the baby is born.
• Is she looking after the baby as you would expect her to? In severe cases, the mother may lose interest in her baby.
• Has she been crying a lot? This is a typical feature of postnatal depression.
• Does she seem to be out of touch with reality? Does she talk to herself or to imaginary voices? If so, then a psychosis is likely.
• Has this ever happened before? Severe postnatal depression is more likely in women who have had the illness at other times in their life.
• Does she talk about killing herself? Does she talk about hurting the baby? These are signs that the illness is possibly quite serious.

Questions to ask the mother
The period after childbirth is often associated with having to be up at different times of the night to nurse or change the baby and this can interfere with sleep and make the woman tired. Many of the physical symptoms of depression, such as tiredness and sleep problems, are common in mothers who are not depressed. Therefore, it is the ‘feeling’ and ‘thinking’ symptoms that are often more important to identify the depression . To detect depression, you should ask questions such as:
• Have you felt sad or unhappy?
• Do you feel hope for the future?
• Have you been feeling like harming yourself?
• Are you able to enjoy the baby?
If you suspect a psychosis, ask the following questions:
• Have you had difficulty controlling your thoughts?
• Have you been feeling as if people were talking about you or trying
to harm you?
• Have you had unusual thoughts, such as feeling as if you have unusual powers?
• Have you had thoughts of harming your baby?
• Have you been hearing voices even when there is no one around?
What to do for the ‘blues’
• Reassure the mother and family that the emotional distress is very common and temporary.
• Should someone help the mother take care of the baby during those few days.
• The mother should get adequate rest.
• Talk to the mother and let her share her concerns and worries.
• If the mother does not feel better in a week, keep a closer watch because this may be a sign that her blues are becoming a more severe illness.

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