Postnatal Depression

What is depression?

Everybody feels low in mood from time to time. However, when the low mood is extreme, lasts for several weeks and affects the daily life of a person then it is said that they are suffering from depression.

Depression is a very common mental health problem affecting 10 to 15 out of 100 new mums. Having a baby can be a very stressful time that involves lots of changes in a person’s life. This can leave new mums vulnerable to developing postnatal depression.

Many women feel that having a baby should be a time of joy and have high expectations of motherhood. This may make it more difficult to admit to feeling depressed. Because depression can make it very hard to care for a baby the Department of Health recommends that, if depressed, it is important for new mums to seek treatment quickly.

What causes postnatal depression?

A number of factors are associated with postnatal depression onset:

  • Family history of postnatal depression.
  • Having had a previous episode of depression.
  • Stressful environment e.g. unemployment, financial or housing problems, bereavement, domestic violence, relationship problems.
  • Lack of support from family or the baby’s father.
  • Traumatic  experiences in childhood or later on.
  • There is no one cause of depression and it could be a mixture of all the above.

Examples of how it might affect you

Feelings: Sadness, Low, Anxiety, Hopeless, Helpless

Thoughts: What is the point?, I’m a useless mother, I’m a burden on others, I can’t be bothered, Suicidal thoughts

Behaviours: Not doing much, Staying in bed, Avoiding people, Avoid caring for the baby, Neglecting personal hygiene

Beliefs: I am a bad mum, I am a failure, I am worthless, Things won’t get better, Nobody cares about me

Bodily reaction: Tiredness/no energy, Tension, Weight loss, Waking up early, Difficulty in concentrating

Relationships: Strained relationship, Isolating yourself, Distant from others, Difficulty bonding with the baby

What can help?

As the experience of depression can be overwhelming it is important to start with small achievable steps in helping yourself.  You might start with some of these suggestions:

  • Medication may help some people as depression has been linked to changes in chemicals in the brain.
  • Doing normal activities, no matter how hard it feels, for example getting out of bed, getting dressed, going for a walk, or talking to somebody on the phone and so on.
  • Exercise such as pram pushing or buggy fit.
  • Getting help with the baby from friends and family.
  • Going to bed at a sensible time in the evening and getting up during the day.
  • Meeting other mums at mother and baby groups.
  • Doing fun activities with your baby.
  • Baby massage.
  • Listen to happy, uplifting music.
  • Notice people or things that make you feel better.
  • Notice the triggers to your feelings of depression.
  • Notice and become aware of your thoughts.
  • Try to challenge the thoughts that are unhelpful by doing self-talk.
  • If you have practical problems e.g. housing or debt, try to solve them or ask someone to help you.
  • Talk to somebody about your feelings, a problem shared is a problem halved.


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