Mother with a new born baby

Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is a type of depression that many parents experience after having a baby. It's a common problem, affecting more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth1. It can also affect fathers and partners, although this is less common.


What are the symptoms?

Postnatal depression can start at any time during the first year after giving birth. Signs can include a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood, lack of interest in the wider world, lack of energy, difficulty bonding with your baby and frightening thoughts. Many mothers and parents don’t realise they have postnatal depression because it can develop gradually.

What are the causes?

Postnatal depression can develop for a number of reasons. Sometimes it follows on from a history of mental health problems. Sometimes a lack of support from family or friends triggers the condition. It might also start because of a poor relationship with your partner. Or a continuation of the ‘baby blues’ that many mothers experience as their hormones resettle in the weeks immediately after birth.

When should I seek help?

It's important to seek help as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed, as your symptoms could last months or get worse and have a significant impact on you, your baby and your family.

With the right support, which can include self-help strategies and therapy, most women make a full recovery.

Postnatal depression can start any time in the first year after giving birth.

Signs that you might be depressed include:

  • a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
  • lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
  • lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
  • difficulty bonding with your baby
  • withdrawing from contact with other people
  • problems concentrating and making decisions
  • frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby.

Many women don't realise they have postnatal depression, because it can develop gradually.

How can I get help?

Speak to your GP or health visitor if you think you may be depressed. 

Many health visitors have been trained to recognise postnatal depression and have techniques that can help. If they can't help, they'll know someone in your area who can.

Don't struggle alone hoping that the problem will go away.

Postnatal depression can be lonely, distressing and frightening, but support and effective treatments are available.

There are a number of options regarding obtaining help and these include:

  • self-help – things you can try yourself include: talking to your family and friends about your feelings and what they can do to help; making time for yourself to do things you enjoy; resting whenever you get the chance and getting as much sleep as you can at night; exercising regularly; eating a healthy diet
  • psychological therapy – your GP may be able to recommend a self-help course, or may refer you for a course of therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • antidepressants – these may be recommended if your depression is more severe or other treatments haven't helped; your doctor can prescribe a medicine that's safe to take while breastfeeding.


You can initially seek a medical review with your GP who will be able to spend time with you and assess you for the type of help that may be appropriate for you. 

Your GP may feel that it is appropriate for you to be referred to a Psychiatrist or Psychologist to help you through your concerns and anxieties.

Local and national organisations, such as the Association for Post Natal Illness (APNI) and Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support (PANDAS), can also be useful sources of help and advice.

You may also wish to arrange an appointment with your Obstetrician who may be able to talk through with you any difficulties in relation to the pregnancy and birth, particularly should you wish to have another baby in the future.


  • PANDAS Foundation UK
  • Royal College of Psychiatrist