Postnatal depression is common. If you think that you or someone you know may have postnatal depression, there is support and treatment available to help.
Postnatal depression is a type of depression that affects women after having a baby. It is a common condition with around 1 in 10 mothers experiencing it after giving birth.1
Although postnatal depression can be difficult to deal with, it is treatable. Talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor if you’re worried you may have depression.
What are the symptoms of postnatal depression?
The symptoms of postnatal depression are the same as depression. But to have postnatal depression, you must experience a new episode of depression that starts within a year of having a baby.2
Some of these symptoms are:
What causes postnatal depression?
Having a baby can be life-changing. The changes to your daily life as well as your health and well-being can have a huge impact.
Anyone can experience postnatal depression. But some things can make you more likely to experience it.
Some of these things include:
Is postnatal depression the same as the baby blues?
The ‘baby blues’ is a term for feeling down or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is a common experience, and it does not mean you have postnatal depression. But sometimes, you can develop postnatal depression after having the baby blues.5
A big difference between the baby blues and postnatal depression is that the baby blues should disappear on their own within two weeks of giving birth.
If you continue to feel low or anxious and it causes a big impact on your life, you may have postnatal depression. It’s important to talk to your GP, midwife or health visitor as soon as you think you may have postnatal depression.
Postnatal depression can start anytime in the first year after having a child. Some people find their postnatal depression comes on suddenly, while for others it begins mild and gets worse as time goes on.3
If it’s not properly treated, postnatal depression can continue for months or even years. That’s why it’s important to get help as soon as possible.3
What other conditions are linked to postnatal depression?
Because having a child is such a big life event, many mental health conditions can develop after giving birth. These may be anxiety disorders like generalised anxiety disorder, panic disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), particularly if you had a traumatic birth experience.3
Some people also develop postpartum psychosis after giving birth. This can also include depression as well as other symptoms. Some of these symptoms include:
Can men have postnatal depression?
Anyone can experience postnatal depression. Whether your partner carried the child, or you became a parent through adoption, you can still have postnatal depression.
Up to 1 in 10 men experience postnatal depression after having a child. The risk factors and symptoms for men are the same as for women who have postnatal depression.7
If you are a man struggling with postnatal depression, there is help available for you. Talk to your GP about your symptoms and they can help provide treatment. This might be medication such as anti-depressants or talking therapy.
There are a range of different treatments for postnatal depression, so you can find the one that’s right for you. You may find talking therapy helps. One example of talking therapy is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which helps you to challenge negative thoughts and feelings.8
Medications like antidepressants can also help with postnatal depression. If you’re breastfeeding, you may still be able to take antidepressants.8
Some people find a mixture of both talking therapy and antidepressants most helpful.8
How else can you manage postnatal depression?
There are many self-help techniques that can help you manage postnatal depression. Eating regular, healthy meals and exercising regularly can improve your mood.8
It can be helpful to let your support system know you’re struggling. Your partner, close friends or family may be able to listen and support you.
Getting as much rest as possible is important for treating depression, but it can be difficult if you have a baby.8 Sleeping when you can and asking for help with the baby at night can help you manage your symptoms.
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Information and help for people with postnatal depression, with phone and email helplines.
Information and support for people affected by mental health conditions, including an information helpline and online support community.
National childbirth charity with a helpline and local support groups.
Support for people with postnatal depression including support groups, phone helplines and email support.
Information about postnatal depression, including symptoms and treatments to manage postnatal depression.
Information and support if you live in Scotland.
- Disclosure of symptoms of postnatal depression, the perspectives of health professionals and women: a qualitative study | SpringerLink. Accessed February 27, 2023.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/1471-2296-10-7
- Postnatal depression. nhs.uk. Published February 15, 2021. Accessed February 27, 2023.https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-natal-depression/overview/
- Symptoms - Postnatal depression. nhs.uk. Published February 15, 2021. Accessed February 27, 2023.https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-natal-depression/symptoms/
- Risk factors | Background information | Depression - antenatal and postnatal | CKS | NICE. Accessed February 27, 2023.https://cks.nice.org.uk/topics/depression-antenatal-postnatal/background-information/risk-factors/
- Feeling depressed after childbirth. nhs.uk. Published December 7, 2020. Accessed February 27, 2023.https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/baby/support-and-services/feeling-depressed-after-childbirth/
- Postpartum psychosis. nhs.uk. Published February 11, 2021. Accessed February 27, 2023.https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-partum-psychosis/
- Postpartum Depression in Men - PMC. Accessed February 27, 2023.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6659987/
- Treatment - Postnatal depression. nhs.uk. Published February 15, 2021. Accessed February 27, 2023.https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/post-natal-depression/treatment/
Reviewed by: Mital Thakrar
Review date: March 2023
Next review: March 2026