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 birth. It can also affect fathers and partners, although this is less common.
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.
Many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is often called the "baby blues" and is so common that it’s considered normal. The "baby blues" don’t last for more than two weeks after giving birth.
If your symptoms last longer or start later, you could have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression can start any time in the first year after giving birth.
Signs that you or someone you know might be depressed include:
Many women don't realise they have postnatal depression, because it can develop gradually.
Read more about the symptoms of postnatal depression.
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.
Encourage your partner to seek help if you think they might be having problems.
Don't struggle alone hoping that the problem will go away. Remember that:
Postnatal depression can be lonely, distressing and frightening, but support and effective treatments are available.
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.
Read more about treating postnatal depression.
The cause of postnatal depression isn't completely clear. Some of the factors it has been associated with include:
Even if you don't have any of these symptoms, having a baby is a life-changing event that can sometimes trigger depression.
It often takes time to adapt to becoming a new parent. Looking after a small baby can be stressful and exhausting.
Although there have been several studies into preventing postnatal depression, there is no evidence that there’s anything specific you can do to prevent the condition developing, apart from maintaining as healthy a lifestyle as you can for yourself.
However, if you have a history of depression or mental health problems, or if you have a family history of mental health problems after childbirth, tell your GP or mental health team if you’re pregnant or thinking of having a baby. This is so they can offer you appropriate monitoring and treatment, if necessary.
If you have had a mental health problem while pregnant, your doctor should arrange for you to be seen regularly in the first few weeks after birth.