• Between 10-15% of women will suffer from postnatal illness
• 10% of new fathers also get depression following the birth of a baby
• Where women have suffered depression during pregnancy, the statistic for postnatal depression rises to 33% and of these 25% will still be experiencing symptoms up to a year later.
• Recent research by charity 4Children shows that 49% of women who thought they had suffered from postnatal depression did not seek treatment, mainly because they either did not believe the symptoms were severe enough or they were concerned about how they and their baby might be impacted by seeking treatment.
What is postnatal depression/postnatal illness?
Postnatal illness occurs after the birth of a baby. It is a form of depression which can affect both the mother and the father. Many experts believe it is caused by genetic, environmental and social factors and hormones also play a part.
How can I recognise the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression?
8 out of 10 women experience a brief period of feeling depressed which occurs 3-4 days after birth and can persist for a few days. This is known as baby blues and coincides with a large release of hormones associated with milk production. Postnatal depression, however, often occurs between 4-8 weeks post birth, or later and is often longer lasting with more symptoms.
Common symptoms include:
• Crying a lot
• Feeling exhausted
• Difficulty eating
• Difficulty sleeping
• Feeling guilty about not being about to cope
• Feeling guilty about not loving the baby enough
• Difficulties in the relationship with the partner
• Low libido
• Withdrawal from family and friends
What help is available to me?
There are two usual treatments for postnatal depression: medication and talking therapies (counselling).
For mild to moderate depression, the recommended treatment is counselling and a course of at least 6 sessions can be as effective as anti-depressants.
For severe depression, a combination of anti-depressants and talking therapy should be offered.
In the first instance, women should access support through their health visitor or GP, but partners or other close family member may be the first to spot the signs and may need to encourage women to seek help.
Watch out for
Puerperal psychosis is a rare but severe mental health condition which affects around 2 in 1000 women after birth. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions and suicidal thoughts. Help must be sought promptly at a mother & baby unit or psychiatric facility. Most women improve significantly within one month following the correct treatment.
Other local and online support
For support with postnatal illness, visit
The NCT helpline on 0300 330 0700