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Maternal mental health: what is postnatal depression?

Maternal mental health: what is postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of depression parents can develop after the arrival of a new baby. Postnatal depression is a common illness; affecting 1 in 10 women.

Often confused with the ‘baby blues’, postnatal depression can develop within a month or two after giving birth and can affect both parents. It’s important to seek help at the first sign of depression as symptoms of PND can worsen and have a significant impact on you, your baby and the whole family.

For most mothers, it’s normal to feel anxious, weepy or tired in the first 10 days after giving birth and these feelings often pass after a few days, it’s important to keep an eye out in case symptoms last longer. Here we look at the signs, symptoms and treatments of postnatal depression.

Signs and symptoms of postnatal depression

Symptoms of PND will be different for everyone, but some of the common signs include:

  • Persistent feeling of sadness and low mood, which may feel worse in the mornings
  • Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
  • Problems focusing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Distancing yourself from friends and family
  • Problems sleeping
  • Feeling detached from your baby
  • Worried about something bad happening to your baby

Spotting the signs in your partner

Recognising your partner has depression can be a big hurdle to face. It’s important to keep an eye on prolonged symptoms. Has your partner lost interest in something they usually enjoy? Are they having thoughts of self-harm to themselves or the baby? These are worrying signs and means your partner should seek help.

  • Reach out to your partner and let them know you are there for them.
  • Encourage them to speak to their health visitor or GP and offer to go to the appointments with them.
  • Help your partner by offering practical support around the house by taking over the cooking, shopping, cleaning and laundry.

Treatment for postnatal depression

With the right treatment and support, it is possible to make a full recovery. There are three main types of treatment for PSN; self-help strategies, therapy and medication.

Self Help

Talking about how you feel and expressing your thoughts is one of the best ways to recover. Looking after a new baby isn’t easy but suffering from PND at the same time is very tough. Self-help includes:

  • Talking to friends, your partner and family so that they can help support you
  • Exercising to boost your mood
  • Getting plenty of rest (ask your partner if they can take the night feed)
  • Don’t feel bad for accepting help from others for example; shopping, cooking and cleaning
  • Relaxing and making time for yourself

 Psychological therapies

Therapy is often the first port of call when it comes to treating postnatal depression. Some of these therapies include guided self-help via an online course, cognitive behavioural therapy or impersonal therapy.


Cognitive behavioural therapy encourages you to examine negative and unrealistic thoughts and look at realistic solutions. CBT can be carried out either 1 to 1 with a therapist or in a group. Treatment will often last 3 to 4 months.

Interpersonal therapy

Interpersonal therapy involves 1 to 1 therapy sessions with a therapist talking about the problems you’re facing and identifying the cause of the depression.

What support is available?

There are a number of support groups, charities and organisations which offer a range of advice to new parents and families.

Mumsnet – Online forums for parents

Pandas Foundation - Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support

National Childbirth Trust (NCT) - UK's largest parent charity

Mind - The mental health charity

Private Maternity Benefit

Did you know that with our Elite Private Health Insurance policy you could be covered for Private Maternity? You’ll also have access to our complimentary Health and Wellbeing services which offers telephone counselling, mini health checks and has a wide range of information and advice on medical issues. Get your free online quote today!

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