Post Natal Depression: A guide for Mothers, Family and Friends

After giving birth, most mothers experience some degree of mood swings. There are 3 main kinds of post natal mood change:

  • Baby blues
  • Puerperal psychosis
  • Postnatal depression

Baby blues.

So common they are considered normal for new mothers

They usually begin 2-4 days after baby is born.

You may have crying spells, increased feelings of vulnerability, loneliness and weariness.

Although distressing baby blues will pass quickly usually within weeks.

You will need as much help as you can from partner, family and friends to get as much rest as possible.

Postpartum psychosis.

Occurs in 1-2 per 100 childbearing women within the first 2-4 weeks after delivery

The onset of postpartum psychosis is rapid , as early as 2-3 days after birth.

The mother develops paranoia, grandiose or bizarre delusions , mood swings, confused thinking and grossly disorganized behaviour that represents a dramatic change for her.

Postnatal depression.

Post natal depression falls somewhere between the baby blues and postpartum psychosis.

It may affect up to 1 in 7 new mothers or even more.

Symptoms may start as baby blues and then get worse or they may take some time to develop.

It may be most obvious when your baby is 4-6 months.

The earlier it is recognised , diagnosed and treated the faster you will recover.

Postnatal depression can last longer than 3 months and even years if not treated

Often a family member will notice something is wrong before you do.


What causes postnatal depression?

Personal history :  if you have a history of depression this can be a risk factor for postnatal depression.

Birth experience : ie did not meet your expectations, feeling of being let down.Some people who develop PND have a traumatic or difficult birth or a premature or unwell baby.

Biological factors :  there is ongoing research on a temporary thyroid gland defect, linked to mood changes and to the drop of hormones after giving birth.

Changes in lifestyle : Birth of baby brings changes to your life. New babies are hard work, with constant demands of feeding, bathing, crying and putting to sleep. Therefore you lose a lot of sleep. A new mother is suddenly responsible 24 hours a day. You lose the freedom you enjoyed before baby arrived. This sense of loss can contribute to depression. It may take time to adjust to new circumstances.

Relationships. The birth of a baby can also have a profound impact on your relationships with your partner, family and friends. This can sometimes cause enormous strain.

Stressful life events: Recent life events, such as bereavement or serious illness may mean that you are emotionally stressed before the birth of your baby. You may be affected by unemployment or lack of money. Mothers who do not have a supportive partner or are isolated from their families may be more likely to suffer depression after birth. Antenatal anxiety is also a risk factor for risk of postnatal depression.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Irritability/ anger for no reason
  • Anxiety/ worried about things that aren’t usually an issue/ don’t want to leave house
  • Some mothers are afraid of being left alone with the baby
  • Panic attacks/ sweating hands/a thumping heart/nausea.
  • Sleep problems/ hard to get to sleep even if baby is sound asleep.
  • Tiredness/ constantly exhausted/unable to manage housework or looking after baby
  • Little interest in your appearance, or sex or your surroundings
  • Concentration/ feel confused or distracted
  • Appetite , may not feel like eating , or overeat/ lose or put on weight
  • Tearfulness cry often for no reasons you understand
  • Obsessive behaviour : Meticulously tidying house. Overwhelming fears, ie re dying etc
  • Some mothers have recurring thoughts about harming baby (very few mothers act on this)


Helping yourself

The most important thing you can do is look for help. Talk to your partner, family, GP, or Public Health Nurse immediately

  • Be open about your feelings and worries.
  • Believe that you will get better.
  • Take every opportunity to rest.
  • Eat well.
  • Ask people you trust to help you.
  • Set aside time for relaxing with partner. Family and friends.
  • Organise a daily treat.
  • Find time to have some fun.
  • Be intimate with your partner.

Find out what support networks are available in your area.

  • Public Health Nurse, GP, Mental Health Services
  • Counselling/ Medication
  • Local support groups
  • Mother and Toddler groups
  • Ciudiu
  • Parentline, Samaritans, Aware, Grow etc


  • Try to be superwoman.
  • Blame yourself or your partner.
  • Move house while pregnant or for some months after baby is born.



Health Service Executive, April 2016.











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I thought it may be useful to share the link to the guide - - which you can include on your website ahead of Safer Internet Day, to help parents and children who may need some extra support. We've also put together some handy top tips you can use on your website: 10 tips to keep your children safe online
  1. Talk about it:Make time to chat about online risks and how to use the internet safelyas soon as they're old enough to go online. Encourage your children to speak to you about what they view online and empower them to act if they're worried about anything.
  2. Recognise the risks: Educate yourself about the potential dangers children could face online so  it’s easier to spot warning signs. Get to know what platforms your children use, and learn about dangers such as phishing, grooming and cyberbullying.
  3. Teach the do's and don'ts: Be clear about the non-negotiables.  For example, teach your child not to share personal details or photos with strangers and instruct them not to click on links to unknown websites or texts. Do encourage your child to question what they see and only accept friend requests from people they know.
  4. Spot the signs: Pay attention to your children's behaviour whilst on and off their devices. Being alert to changes in your child can help prevent problems from escalating. Some warning signs are withdrawing from friends or family, sleeping and eating problems or losing interest in previously loved hobbies or interests.
  5. Set boundaries:Let your children know what they can and can't do on the internet from the get-go. Agree on what devices they can use, when, and how long they can spend online. As they get older, explaining and negotiating boundaries may be more effective.
  6. Take 'parental' control: These ready-made boundaries put parents in control of what children can see online. They can be set up through your internet provider at device level to block specific websites and filter out inappropriate content.
  7. Be social media savvy:  The popularity of social media apps like TikTok and Snapchat makes it harder to keep track of what your child is accessing online.  Fortunately, each social media platform has its own privacy settings and safety tips for parents. Check them out before you let children have their own accounts.
  8. Protect from harm:Install antivirus software on family devices to minimise the risk of cyber attacks or scams. Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for extra security on your online accounts. This can also stop children from signing into services they're not allowed to use.
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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

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