Most women can tell a story or two of post-natal depression (PND, or post-partum depression). In our post-Industrialised global economy, as many as one in eight women suffer from this mental illness following the birth of one of their children.

PND isn’t just a disease of rich Westerners, however. Women all around the world suffer from it, and it’s often associated with less social support, increased stressful life events in the preceding year and higher levels of psychological distress in the ante-natal period. In some parts of south-east Asia, the gender of the baby is a contributing risk factor to PND (e.g. where sons are highly-desired).

Because it’s a mental illness, it may be difficult to rate the seriousness of a woman’s “baby blues” as she adjusts to a new baby, a new life, a new job, and all the associated changes. However, it may not have to be that hard (if you’ll let me say this while understanding I am not trivialising the seriousness of the issue). All you need to know is the right questions to ask and the ability to receive honest answers.

A study published by the American Association of Pediatricians in Pediatrics in June this year found that by asking three simple questions, doctors (and friends) could determine whether or not a new mother was suffering from PND.

If you’ve got a friend with a new baby, or you have a new baby and feel confident enough to self-analyse, ask these questions and seek a response of “Yes, most of the time;” “Yes, some of the time;” “Not very often;” or “No, never”:

  • I have blamed myself unnecessarily when things went wrong.
  • I have felt scared or panicky for not very good reasons.
  • I have been anxious or worried for not very good reasons.

In their published results, the study showed that where the responses were affirmative, or at least, where the respondent sought clarification, such as asking “What does ‘not very good reasons’ mean?”, the mother was suffering from PND.

A caring friend should be able to elicit honest answers from a new mother, using these three questions as a guideline for the questioning. If you suspect someone may need help, don’t delay in following up on the relationship. They need you more than ever right now.

If you/someone you know suffered PND, how was it diagnosed?