Mental health problems after the birth

Some women find their low mood doesn’t lift after the birth and they become anxious or depressed.

Around 1 in 5 women will develop mental health problems when they’re pregnant or in the first year after their baby's born.

Mental health problems can sometimes be serious for you and your baby, especially if they’re not picked up early and treated.

Depression

Depression after you’ve had a baby is called postnatal depression (PND). It can be exhausting and frightening. Some mums worry people will think they can’t cope, so they try and hide it.

PND is more likely if:

  • there’s depression in your family or you’ve had mental health problems before
  • your partner's violent, or you’ve been abused
  • you had a difficult, traumatic or stressful birth
  • your baby needs extra care or was born with a health condition or disability
  • you don’t have much support or many people to help you
  • you have money, housing or other worries

More about symptoms of postnatal depression

Dads and partners

Dads and partners can become depressed after the birth of a child too.

Some feel under pressure and find being a parent a lot to cope with. Others feel they’re not giving their partner the support she needs.

Men whose partners have postnatal depression are more likely to become depressed themselves.

Anxiety

All new parents worry to some extent and that’s normal. For some, anxiety can become overwhelming and the feelings can be hard to cope with.

There are many ways to control anxiety. Working out what’s causing it can sometimes help.

If you feel like you can’t manage, and your worries are always there and affecting your day-to-day life, speak to your GP, health visitor or family nurse about getting some support.

More about anxiety

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)

OCD is a type of anxiety where you have unwelcome thoughts and feel like you need to do certain behaviours.

If you’ve had OCD in the past, some of your symptoms may come back after your baby's born. Be on the lookout for them and if they start, get some help as soon as you can.

Maternal OCD has more about perinatal OCD

Trauma

A difficult or upsetting birth can sometimes cause symptoms of trauma for you and your partner, such as

  • having upsetting memories or nightmares about it
  • trying not to think about the birth or not wanting to talk about it
  • feeling anxious and upset when reminded about it
  • feeling angry, irritable or jumpy

If this happens and you’re worried or it affects your day to day life, speak to your GP, health visitor or family nurse.

Once you’ve been able to work through these feelings they usually get better over time. Most people don’t need treatment or therapy.

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis (puerperal psychosis or postnatal psychosis) is a serious mental health illness that can affect a woman soon after she's given birth.

More about postpartum psychosis

Help and support

If you need help, the sooner you get it the sooner you'll start to feel like yourself again. If you’re worried, talk to someone you trust.

Remember that everyone needs help from time to time and it’s okay to not feel okay. If you find it hard to manage and take care of your baby, they'll still be able to get feelings of safety and love from another caring adult.

Until you feel better, it’s okay to let someone else you trust help you take care of your baby.