Postnatal Depression



Saba Mughal; Yusra Azhar; Waquar Siddiqui.

Childbirth is a difficult and exhausting process. A female goes through a lot of hormonal, physical, emotional, and psychological changes throughout pregnancy. Tremendous changes occur in the mother's familial and interpersonal world. After childbirth, a mother can experience varied emotions ranging from joy and pleasure to sadness and crying bouts. These feelings of sadness and tearfulness are called "baby blues," and they tend to decrease over the first 2 weeks after delivery.

Around one in seven women can develop postpartum depression (PPD). While women experiencing baby blues tend to recover quickly, PPD tends to be longer and severely affects women's ability to return to normal function. PPD affects the mother and her relationship with the infant. Maternal brain response and behaviour are compromised in PPD. According to Beck in 2006, as many as half of PPD in new mothers go undiagnosed because of conflict in privacy and not wanting to disclose to close family members. There is also a stigma around new mothers in that disclosure may lead to abandonment and fear of lack of Support.

Please also see latest version of the National Clinical Guidelines.


Postnatal depression is a common, but debilitating condition that affects one in seven women following the birth of their baby. Unlike the baby blues which passes on its own, postnatal depression can be long-lasting, and affect your ability to cope with a new baby.

Depression makes coping and managing from day to day difficult – at any time of life. When considering therefore the additional demands of caring for a baby and/or others, the impacts can be greater. These other demands on you can also make it hard to find the energy and strength to get on top of postnatal depression on your own sometimes.

It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression and seek effective treatment early.

Symptoms of postnatal depression

  • feeling low or numb – some people describe feeling nothing at all
  • lack of interest and/or pleasure in life, yourself and/or the baby
  • no energy – finding it difficult to cope and get through the day (may also be attributed to lack of sleep)
  • loss of confidence, feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless
  • often feeling close to tears, highly sensitive to other’s comments or emotional
  • feeling angry, irritable or resentful towards other mothers, the baby or your partner
  • changes in sleep – not being able to sleep even when you have the opportunity, or conversely, wanting to sleep all the time
  • changes in appetite – accompanied by weight loss or weight gain
  • difficulties concentrating, thinking clearly or making decisions (which could also result from lack of sleep)
  • feeling isolated, alone and disconnected from others
  • having thoughts of harming yourself, baby and/or other children.

If you are experiencing a number of these symptoms, and these are lasting for two weeks or more in the first year of having your baby, you may be experiencing postnatal depression.

These symptoms of postnatal depression can develop gradually or within a short period of time. In some women, depression may develop during pregnancy (antenatal depression) and continue through to the postnatal period (postnatal depression), whilst for others postnatal depression will develop for the first time in the weeks or months after the baby is born.

Postnatal depression in parents of premature and sick babies

When a baby is born early or sick, parents often describe experiencing a range of emotions and reactions including:

  • Shock and confusion
  • Fear
  • Guilt
  • Grief
  • Feelings of helplessness and powerlessness
  • Unmet expectations

Separation from their baby while in Neonatal Intensive and Special Care Units and fear of the unknown immediate and long-term impacts can also affect a premature or sick baby parent’s emotional wellbeing.

Research has indicated that mothers of very premature babies or very sick babies are more likely to experience depressive symptoms one month following the birth of their baby.

Forty per cent of mothers of very premature babies indicated experiencing depressive symptoms. Postnatal stress and anxiety are also likely to be significantly higher. Fathers are also likely to be significantly impacted.

In addition, studies have shown that mothers still have higher rates of psychological distress two and seven years after having a very preterm baby.


Whilst you may feel like you are the only one going through this at the time – you are not alone. Having a baby increases the likelihood of developing depression at this time more than at any other time of her life.

Having a premature or sick baby can be extremely stressful, exhausting and overwhelming. While leaning on friends and loved ones for practical assistance is key, particularly if you have older children to care for too, it’s important to access professional support if you’re struggling.

It is important to seek help early, so that you can reduce these negative impacts of postnatal depression on you, your life and your family.

Postnatal depression can be treated and managed. The faster you seek effective help, the faster you can recover.

Useful Links

Special thanks for Cope – Centre for Perinatal Excellence for content sharing and providing support for families.

COPE – Centre for Perinatal Excellence

Panda - Perinatal Mental Health

Beyond Blue - Mental Health Support

Confirmation Content

Disclaimer: This publication by Miracle Babies Foundation is intended solely for general education and assistance and it is it is not medical advice or a healthcare recommendation. It should not be used for the purpose of medical diagnosis or treatment for any individual condition. This publication has been developed by our Parent Advisory Team (all who are parents of premature and sick babies) and has been reviewed and approved by a Clinical Advisory Team. This publication is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Miracle Babies Foundation recommends that professional medical advice and services be sought out from a qualified healthcare provider familiar with your personal circumstances. To the extent permitted by law, Miracle Babies Foundation excludes and disclaims any liability of any kind (directly or indirectly arising) to any reader of this publication who acts or does not act in reliance wholly or partly on the content of this general publication. If you would like to provide any feedback on the information please email [email protected].