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.