What is Postnatal Depression?

Postnatal Depression (PND) is a depressive illness which according to the charity 4Children effects around 3 in 10 new mothers. The symptoms are similar to those with clinical depression which include low mood, though with PND depending on the severity, a mother may struggle to look after herself and her baby and may find simple tasks difficult to manage.

Approximately 33% of mothers who experienced depression symptoms during pregnancy went on to have PND.


Approximately 25% of mothers still suffered from PND up to a year after their child was born.

Approximately 58% of new mothers with PND did not seek medical help. This was often due to them not understanding the condition or fearing the consequences of reporting the problem.

More than just ‘baby blues’.

The condition is distinct from ‘baby blues’, a short-term drop in mood reportedly experienced by approximately 80% of new mothers.

A proportion of mothers will experience depression around four to six weeks after giving birth. There is a broad range of symptoms that women with PND may experience, and as well as the obvious symptom of feeling low, those affected may also have feelings such as loneliness and guilt, or experience tiredness and sleep problems.

The signs of Postnatal Depression

So with reports showing that 58% of new mother’s not seeking medical help due to lack of understanding the condition or consequences, here is a list of the most common symptoms;

 – Loss of interest or pleasure in your relationships or surroundings.

 – Sleeping problems – can’t get to sleep or waking in the early hours and not being able to get back to sleep.

 – Crying a lot, often over the smallest things or for no reason at all.

 – Physical aches and pains, such as headaches, stomach pains or blurred vision and worrying that it is something terminal or                               serious.

 – Lack of motivation to get up and do anything, feel things are piling up around you.

 – A constant underlying sense of anxiety maybe escalating into panic attacks. Easily “set off” and difficult to calm down.

 – Difficulty concentrating, say on a book or film or even on a conversation.

 – Feeling lonely and isolated. Perhaps feeling rejected by friends, family, even your partner and your baby or children. Or avoiding going out and meeting people.

 – Sense of feeling overwhelmed and unable to cope.

 – Feeling guilty about everything – especially wondering if you are being a bad mother.

 – Overly protective of your baby.

 – Feeling emotionally disconnected from or even rejected by your baby.

 – Strange, frightening thoughts or visions popping into your head about harming yourself or the baby or awful things happening.

Depression and Anxiety affect about 10 to 15 out of every 100 woman during pregnancy.

signs of postnatal depression

Where does it derive from?

It used to be thought that pregnancy hormones provided a protective effect from depression. That’s because many women have a feeling of emotional wellbeing during pregnancy. But it’s now thought that hormone changes in pregnancy may actually contribute to the development of depression.

The stresses and strains of pregnancy, especially if you’re already caring for young children, can leave a woman particularly vulnerable to depression.

A study by the Centre for Child and Adolescent Health, University of the West of England found that children born to women who are depressed during pregnancy are more likely to suffer significant delays in their development. The study found that the risk of poor mental and physical development increased by up to 34%, and when mothers had postnatal depression too, the risk rose to 50%.

It can be very difficult to talk about.

Postnatal Depression is a subject rarely openly discussed over coffee at toddler groups and depression during pregnancy is even less talked about. Many mums hide their feelings from their family and often from themselves. They may put on a mask for the outside world, wrongly believing that everyone else seems to be coping.

Recognising you might be experiencing PND and seeking help can be hard; but it is the first step towards feeling better. No woman should feel embarrassed or ashamed about feeling low or depressed or that they can’t talk about it.

What to do when the symptoms are experienced?

Perhaps the most important thing to recognise is that someone suffering from PND may need encouragement to seek help, and support to get it.

So if you feel that you may be suffering from PND or have a partner, friend or family member that is, then find someone to talk to about it, there is nothing wrong with admitting you need a little support.

Read more from WatchFit Expert Dean Griffiths 


The impact of maternal depression in pregnancy on early child development

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