Postnatal depression is a scary and isolating illness that is alarmingly common. For some, postnatal depression can actually start before the baby is born (such as yours truly). There are three types of child-birth related depression the baby blues, postnatal depression and postnatal psychosis. Today we are focusing on postnatal depression. The others will be covered in time. You can read more about depression and what it actually is here.

The major difference between this form of depression compared to others is that it involves a newborn baby as well as the mother, therefore, it is really important to seek help early. Because postnatal depression can affect how you feel about, and care for, your baby and other children it is important not to ignore any signs. Talk to your midwife or doctor immediately.

What is postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression can occur in women who have never lived with depression before as well as those that have experienced depression.

The baby blues are common and usually occurs within 2 weeks of giving birth and lasts a few days. Postnatal depression, on the other hand, lasts much longer. It can involve feelings of hopelessness like you can’t cope and angry but not sure why. Mothers with postnatal depression can feel overly anxious about their baby or tearful, alone, guilty and unsupported. Some mothers have thoughts about harming themselves or their baby. It is crucial that if you feel this way, or know someone who does, get help immediately.


What is postnatal depression? What are the signs and symptoms? How can you manage postnatal depression and where can you go for help?

What are the signs of postnatal depression?

The signs and symptoms of postnatal depression are similar to depression at other times. You may feel sad most of or all of the time, lose interest in things that were once enjoyable, have very little energy and have a change in appetite.

Other symptoms include:

  • feeling worthless, hopeless or useless
  • changes in eating and sleeping patterns
  • blaming yourself when things go wrong, even if it’s not your fault
  • feeling anxious, panicky or overwhelmed – especially regarding your baby
  • having thoughts of suicide that may include hurting your baby
  • not feeling close to your baby or other family members

What causes postnatal depression?

As with other types of depression, there is no single known cause as to why some women experience postnatal depression and others don’t. One of the biggest risk factors is experiencing depression during the past.

Some of the factors that could put you at a higher risk of postnatal depression include:

  • depression or persistent distress in this or in a past pregnancy
  • a family history of depression
  • being young (under 20)
  • being unmarried or without partner support
  • limited support from parents as a child
  • limited support from friends and whānau
  • challenging relationship with a partner
  • worries about money or housing
  • low self-esteem

How to manage postnatal depression

There are several ways that you can manage postnatal depression.

  • Medication
  • Talking therapies
  • Complementary therapies
  • Self-help


Medications can help in the treatment of postnatal depression. Some medications can be taken while you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Talk to your Dr about what medications will be right for you. Medications work differently for everyone so it might be a bit of trial and error to get one that works for you with the least side effects.

Talking therapies

These can be used in conjunction with medications. Some therapies that are proven to help postnatal depression include:

  • Cognitive behaviour therapy
  • Counselling
  • Group counselling
  • Interpersonal therapy

Complementary therapies

  • Mindfulness
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Yoga
  • Relaxation
  • Massage
  • Aromatherapy


  • Keeping a daily mood journal
  • Sticking to a regular exercise routine
  • Find a bedtime routine that works for you and stick to it (eg no phones half an hour before bed)
  • Plan activities that take you out the house

Where to go for help

If you’re worried about postnatal depression talk to your doctor, midwife or trusted friend or family member. You can also call Healthline 0800 611 116, the Depression Helpline 0800 111 757 or Plunketline 0800 933 922 toll-free in New Zealand.


  • Depression during and after pregnancy, a fact sheet by the Low Down. Find it here.
  • Understanding postnatal depression, a PDF book by MIND UK. Find it here.
  • Postnatal Depression, a booklet by the Ministry of Health. Find it here.
  • The Low Down. A website designed to help those with depression and anxiety. It is filled with resources to help you and your family.

Final Thoughts

Postnatal depression is scary but it doesn’t have to be isolating. Make sure that you ask for help if you need it. You don’t have to live with it alone. When I was living with depression, I thought that I was alone and no one else felt the same way I did (depression can turn us into isolated, self-centered beings sometimes). If I had known that there were other people feeling the same way I was, it may have helped. Please reach out to someone. Whether that is your partner, your parents, a close friend, your midwife or Dr, there are many people out there who care about you and your wellness.



You might also like

  • My story | How I lived with chronic depression and came out the other side
  • The low down | What actually is depression
  • Your Stories | Heather opens up about depression

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What is postnatal depression? What are the signs and symptoms? How can you manage postnatal depression and where can you go for help?
What is postnatal depression? What are the signs and symptoms? How can you manage postnatal depression and where can you go for help?

What is postnatal depression? What are the signs and symptoms? How can you manage postnatal depression and where can you go for help?

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