Postnatal Depression

Postnatal Depression (PND) is the experience of becoming depressed after having a baby. There may be an obvious reason, but often there is none.

It can be particularly distressing to be depressed when you have looked forward to having your baby through the months of pregnancy. You may feel guilty for feeling like this, or even feel that you can’t cope with being a mother. It can last for weeks or several months.

How common is Postnatal Depression?

Around 1 in every 10 women has PND after having a baby. Without treatment it can last for months, or sometimes years.

Postnatal Depression
Postnatal Depression
When does PND happen?

Most cases of PND start within a month of giving birth, but it can start up to six months later. Slowly developing postnatal depression can take two forms. One type occurs when a patch of postnatal ‘blues’ which started soon after the baby’s birth becomes worse and more distressing as time passes. The second type develops more slowly and is not noticeable until several weeks after the birth of the baby.

What causes PND?

We don’t know enough to be sure who will or won’t get it. There is probably no single reason, but a number of different stresses may add up to cause it. You are more likely to have PND if you:

  • are trying to be the ‘perfect’ mother
  • are feeling you ‘should’ be happy but finding motherhood overwhelming
  • are trying to d0 everything yourself and find it difficult to ask for help
  • have had depression (especially PND) before
  • do not have a supportive partner
  • have a premature or sick baby
  • lost your own mother when you were a child
  • have had several recent life stresses – bereavement, unemployment, housing or money problems

Even so, PND can start for no obvious reason, without any of these stresses, and having these problems does not mean that you will definitely have PND.

Dr Julie Hannan is a specialist in postnatal depression in older mothers (those aged 30 years plus).