Address by Mr. Tim O´Malley, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, at a seminar on Post Natal Depression hosted by the Women´s Health Unit of the Northern Area Health Board


I am pleased to have the opportunity to officially open this seminar on the topic of Postnatal Depression.

An occasion such as this allows me to pay tribute to the dedication and commitment shown by both the statutory and voluntary sectors and all who work in the health services.

Postnatal depression is a complication of pregnancy. Many women experience Baby blues, which can last from a few hours to as long as 2 weeks after delivery, and does not always require treatment from a health care provider.

Postnatal depression can occur a few days or even months after childbirth, and can commence after the birth of any child, not just the first child. If the mother does not get treatment, symptoms can get worse and last for as long as 1 year.

Postnatal psychosis is a more serious mental illness that can affect new mothers. It often occurs within the first 3 months after childbirth.

For many women, but particularly for first time mothers, life today makes it very difficult to juggle family life with the pressures of work both inside and outside the home with other areas of activity.

For first-time mothers, the birth marks the end of the person she used to be, and the beginning of her new life as a mother. Life today makes it very difficult to juggle family and other commitments such as work. Changes in lifestyle that a new baby brings can be further sources of stress which, if not confronted and managed, can lead to depression.

Second, third or fourth time mothers can also be susceptible to postnatal depression. The effect of a new arrival may lead to difficulties within the family unit. Children sometimes find it difficult to “bond” with new babies, and husbands or partners can also become depressed.

Being prepared for the possibility of postnatal depression is one way to deal with it. However, many experienced mothers and friends do not want to risk causing the expectant mother distress by dwelling on the negative aspects of childbirth, and the realities of broken nights and debilitating tiredness.

Women with post natal depression are often ashamed of their emotions and quite often do their best to hide them. They often fail to keep doctor appointments and do not want to get involved in what they may perceive as stigmatising psychiatric appointments.

Looking for help means confronting the problem. Everyone adjusts to parenthood eventually. But the adjustment for some people can be long and very difficult. We need to do all we can to make it as easy as possible for those with problems to confront, face and deal with them so that what should be a happy and fulfilling time in every woman´s life can be enjoyed to the full.

Many women with postnatal depression find support and understanding through attending support groups where they can talk with other women who are going through the same thing. The support of others is valuable in helping them to face the future and to realise that there is life after postnatal depression.

In conclusion, I would like to pay tribute to all involved in the staging of this seminar today. The hard work, and effort and dedication of those involved is to be complimented. I am confident that your work will have a positive impact and will enable many mothers to avail of the help and support they may require.

Finally, I thank you once again for inviting me here today.