Postnatal Depression

Having a baby is meant to be the most wonderful experience for women and men, but this is not always the case. In today’s blog we will discuss postnatal depression in depth and also touch on the other mental health issues which pregnancy can sometimes occur.

postnatal depression

What is Postnatal Depression? POSTPARTUM

The word postnatal means ‘after birth’ in Latin. It is also referred to as postpartum depression (PPD). This is a type of mood disorder experienced by some mothers after giving birth, typically from hormone changes of the psychological adjustment to motherhood. This affects 10 in every 100 women and has very similar symptoms to depression for example, a woman may struggle to take care of herself or the baby after birth or may find simple tasks difficult to handle.

The extreme guilt over how they’re feeling can consume these women and the associated stigma often prevents them from asking for help, in fear of being judged. Postnatal depression is not to be confused with ‘baby blues’ which last up to two weeks after birth. The symptoms of postnatal depression will last longer and can start any time in the first year of the child's life. 1 in 3 women whose symptoms started in pregnancy will continue after birth.

Over half of new mums will experience ‘baby blues’ 3 - 4 days after birth.

This is a temporary psychological state right after birth which leaves the mother with sudden mood swings, extreme happiness followed by extreme sadness, crying for no reason, feeling impatient, irritable, restless, anxious, alone and sad. However baby blues generally go away when the baby is around 10 days old. If this sadness exceeds 2 weeks see your GP. (1)

Postnatal depression is just as severe and serious as any other mental disorder and isn't just going to go away on its own. It isn't just entirely up to the hormone changes in your body but many other factors.

Can men have postnatal depression?

It also isn't exclusive to women, research found that 1 in 10 new fathers become depressed after having a baby. 

Common symptoms.


  • depressed

  • irritable

  • tired/ sleepless

  • appetite change

  • unable to enjoy anything

  • loss of interest in sex

  • negative  thoughts

  • anxious

  • avoiding people

  • hopeless

  • suicidal thoughts

  • self-harm

  • psychotic symptoms

  • the feeling you may or may not love your baby

  • not feeling close to them

  • resent/blame your baby

  • find it hard to figure out your babies feelings/needs

  • may feel like hitting or shaking your baby


where does it come from, how long does it last?

Like many mental disorders, the cause of postnatal depression isn’t completely clear. But, there are many factors which may make you more likely to have postnatal depression. These include: (2)

  • history of mental health

  • history of mental health problems during pregnancy

  • having no support (no close family, friends or partner)

  • a difficult relationship with your baby's father

  • recent stressful life events

  • physical or psychological trauma (e.g. domestic violence)

  • baby blues

  • someone in your family had mental health problems after childbirth (e.g. your mother or sister)


Although all these can increase your risk of developing postnatal depression, it is not exclusive to these. Having a baby is a huge life altering event and can sometimes trigger depression. The responsibility of looking after a baby is huge and can take some time to adjust.

Postnatal depression can go on for months without proper treatment. Treatments include psychological therapy where your GP may suggest a help-help course or refer you for a course of therapy like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and if your depression is more severe, antidepressants can be prescribed to you.

what is postnatal psychosis

Postnatal or postpartum psychosis is also known as Puerperal psychosis.

Postnatal psychosis is the most severe type of mental illness you can have soon after childbirth. affects 1 in 500 new mothers and symptoms can develop within hours after birth and be life threatening. This is very different from baby blues!

Some symptoms include:

  • hallucinations

  • delusions

  • rapidly changing mood swings (extreme highs followed by extreme lows)

  • manic moods (talking/thinking too much or too fast)

  • a mixture of both manic moods and low moods

  • feeling suspicious or fearful

  • restlessness

  • feeling very confused

  • behaving way out of character (3)

Women with bipolar or schizophrenia are particularly at risk.

Treatments include, antipsychotics to help with mania, mood stabilisers, antidepressants and therapy.

Other mental health problems around childbirth

1 in 5 women have mental health problems during or after pregnancy.

What is Perinatal Obsessive Compulsive Disorder?

OCD is a common mental illness which both men and women can experience but when a woman has OCD during pregnancy or after child birth this is known as perinatal OCD.

Perinatal OCD affects 2-3 in every 100 women after birth. Women’s obsessions are often anxious thoughts or images in their head which often focus on the baby being harmed. Anxiety as a result of the obsessions and thoughts or actions you repeat to try to reduce the anxiety, these are compulsions.

Depression and anxiety

Depression and anxiety are the most common mental illnesses linked to pregnancy. they affect 10-15 in every 100 women. Depression during pregnancy can be treated in the same way as postnatal depression

How can pregnancy affect my mental health?

It’s hard to think of pregnancy as a negative thing but not all women have happy and exciting feelings towards their pregnancy. In fact most women have mixed negative and positive thoughts about being pregnant. You may struggle to adjust to the change pregnancy brings. Most women will worry about how they will cope with having a baby but it is normal to worry.

If you've had previous mental health issues then the symptoms are more often likely to get worse during pregnancy. For example, if you have an eating disorder you may find it hard to cope with the changes of shape and weight of your body. 

If you’ve had any mental health issues prior to your pregnancy you need to insure you inform your doctor so they can help you in any way that they can.


If you'd like to read more on postnatal depression read our sister companies blogs :

pregnancy and postpartum depression

5 things to know about puerperal psychosis






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