Postnatal Depression: How to Spot the Signs and How to Help

Postnatal depression is more common than people think. It’s estimated to affect more than 1 in 10 women, but it can affect everyone differently. It has a broad range of symptoms, but there are some that are more common than others. Postnatal depression is different from the baby blues, but both are common post-partum conditions.


postnatal depression


What Are the Baby Blues?

It’s very common for many women to feel tearful, emotional, and overwhelmed in the first two weeks after giving birth. It’s completely normal, and usually only lasts for a few days.


What Is Postnatal Depression?

Postnatal depression is different from the baby blues. Baby blues do not last longer than two weeks after giving birth, so if your symptoms last longer than this or develop after the first two weeks,  then you may have postnatal depression.


Symptoms Of Postnatal Depression

Post-natal depression is estimated to affect more than 1 in 10 women, but it can often go unreported. Many women don’t report their feelings to anyone. Many of the symptoms are similar to what people experience as parents to a newborn. Mild tiredness, appetite changes and irritability are common in parents, but they don’t stop you from your day-to-day activities.


If these symptoms become more severe or appear alongside other symptoms, then you may be suffering from post-natal depression.


Other symptoms include:

  • Feeling overwhelmingly sad, tearful, emotional, or low in mood most of the time.
  • Feeling irritable towards your partner, baby, other children, or other members of your household.
  • Loss of interest in the world around you.
  • Taking no pleasure in things you used to enjoy.
  • Lack of energy.
  • Feeling tired all the time.
  • Trouble sleeping.
  • Feeling tired, and sleepy during the day.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Trouble making decisions.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Increased appetite and overeating.
  • Feeling agitated.
  • Negative thoughts.
  • Feeling inadequate, not good enough, or that you can’t look after your baby.
  • Feeling that your baby is rejecting you, or that your baby doesn’t love you.
  • Feeling guilty, and self-blaming.
  • Feeling hopeless.
  • Feeling anxious that something may happen to your baby.
  • Feeling that you can’t bond with your baby or feeling in enjoyment in spending time with your baby.


Spotting Symptoms in Others

Post-natal depression can be difficult as it can develop gradually. Also, parents can avoid talking about how they’re feeling, or try to hide their feelings. There are some signs that might let you know that your partner, friend, or family member is struggling. These include:


  • Frequent crying for no obvious reason.
  • Not seeming to enjoy the baby or having difficulty in bonding with the baby.
  • Withdrawing from contact with others.
  • Speaking negatively most of the time.
  • Saying that they feel hopeless.
  • Neglecting themselves, such as struggling to change their clothes, shower, or take care of their general hygiene.
  • Losing their sense of humour.
  • Worrying that something is wrong with the baby, and not responding to reassurance.



What to do for Post-Natal Depression

If you or someone you love is suffering from post-natal depression, there are some things that you can do.


Believe That You Will Get Better

Post-natal depression can be managed with treatment. Asking for help and getting treatment will help you start to feel like yourself again.


Ask For Help from Family and Friends

If you’re suffering from post-natal depression, give yourself a break. It really doesn’t matter if the clothes or dishes aren’t washed for a day or two, or if the beds aren’t changed. There are people who care about you, so ask them for help. Ask your friends and family to help with some of the practical housework chores. If they offer to babysit for you, accept the offer.


Rest When You Can

You’ve probably been told to sleep while the baby sleeps many, many times, but it is advice you should take. Even if you can’t sleep, lie down and rest as much as possible. If you’re breastfeeding, you may want to try expressing milk so that someone else can feed your baby and let you rest.


Spend Time with Your Loved Ones

It can seem very difficult to spend time with others, especially as you may want to withdraw yourself from social situations. However, it can be very good for you. Try to set aside some time for your partner, your family, or your friends. Don’t try to do too much too soon. You may want to start by spending five or ten minutes at a time.


Meet Other Parents

Look for support in your local area. There may be parent and baby groups, or mother-to-mother support groups. Some areas can help mothers suffering from post-natal depression get in touch and support each other. Your Health Visitor may have details of groups, or check online, in your local area newspaper, or at your local library. The important thing is to remember that you aren’t alone, and that other parents can and do understand how you’re feeling.


Eat Well and Exercise

Healthy eating and exercise can help you. Look for nutritious foods, but stick to easy to cook, simple recipes. When exercising, only do as much as you feel able to. If you can manage a five-minute walk, have a five-minute walk, and remember that you have achieved something.


Make Time for Yourself

Try to make time for yourself every day. Do something that is just for you. It could be going for a walk or going to your favourite coffee shop for a treat.


Speak to Your GP or Health Visitor

Your GP and your Health Visitor can offer support, such as counselling, or medication if it’s needed. Don’t feel that you must go through this alone. Your healthcare providers will have experience in treating post-natal depression and will be able to help.


Supporting Your Partner Through Post Natal Depression

If your partner is suffering from post-natal depression, it can be an extremely worrying time for you. There are some things that you can do to offer support.


  • Be patient and understanding. Listen with empathy, and without criticism or judgement.
  • Let your partner express their feelings.
  • Encourage your partner to eat well.
  • Encourage your partner to get some exercise or offer to go for a walk together.
  • Encourage your partner to talk to the GP, Health Visitor, or other healthcare professional.
  • Offer to go to appointments with your partner.
  • Remind your partner that you love them, and that they are a great parent.
  • Offer to take the baby out, or to look after the baby while your partner rests.
  • Ask family and friends to help with some practical tasks, such as laundry, cooking, or shopping.
  • If your partner is feeling overwhelmed, you may need to limit the number of visitors to your home.
  • Find local support groups for your partner.
  • Plan some time as a couple away from the baby.


Don’t forget to look after yourself as well. Make sure that you have someone to talk to, or that you can spend time on your own self-care.