Mental health week: Post natal depression

Postnatal depression comes under the umbrella term peri-natal mental health, which describes the emotional wellbeing of women during pregnancy and the first 2 years following child birth. Post natal depression can start after the birth of the baby.  However, people often don’t realise that it is just as likely to begin during pregnancy. National statistic estimate one in every ten women suffer from post natal depression.  Though, a recent economic study of the impact of perinatal mental health problems on society suggests that up to 20 % of women can suffer from a peri-natal mental mood disorders during pregnancy and the post natal period.  


The Institute of Health Visiting have drawn attention to recent research that indicates men can also suffer from post-natal depression.  The key triggers for post natal depression are: major life events such as bereavement, financial problems, relationship problems and isolation.  Of course both men and women are both equally vulnerable to these triggers.  Another key trigger is one of the parents having a difficult child hood themselves; these feelings may have been buried for many years and then evoked when the new baby arrives.  


The symptoms of postnatal depression are wide-ranging and can include low mood, feeling unable to cope, self-blame and not enjoying the things in life that you would normally have pleasure in doing. The symptoms if coupled with anxiety can be masked and a parent may seem bright, bubbly and on the go but subconsciously they maybe avoiding difficult feelings and depression. It is normal to feel what is commonly known as the ‘baby blues’, that describes the emotional rollercoaster in the first couple of weeks following the birth but if symptoms continue or are more persistent it could be post natal depression.


Emily Henry is one of the team managers for CPFT health visitors she explained:

“Postnatal depression can be lonely, distressing and frightening, but there are lots of interventions available.  As long as it's recognised and treated, postnatal depression is a temporary condition you can recover from. Some women don’t recognise they have postnatal depression, or they mask their symptoms because they’re afraid of being seen as a bad mother. It's essential to understand that postnatal depression is an illness. If you have it, it doesn't mean you don't love or care for your baby. It's also very important to seek support if you think you or your partner has postnatal depression.

“Every family with a new baby in Cumbria has a named Health Visitor. The Health Visitor will routinely ask every women about depression and anxiety to screen for symptoms, we often give parents questionnaires to fill in as sometimes it’s hard to find the words to describe how you are feeling when you are suffering from post natal depression.   If any form of peri-natal mental health problem is raised, the Health Visitor will support the family with an individual and tailored package of care. This could include support visits to discuss and make sense of difficult feelings such as a traumatic birth. It could also include self-help advice, signpost to specialist therapies or the GP for medication if needed. The condition is unlikely to get better by itself quickly and left untreated it could impact on the relationship between the parent and their new baby.  The earlier you ask for help, the quicker we can support you to restore that enjoyment with your baby and family. ”


The cause of postnatal depression isn't clear, but it's thought to be the result of several things rather than a single cause. These may include:

  • the physical and emotional stress of looking after a newborn baby, particularly a lack of sleep (men and women)
  • hormonal changes that occur shortly after pregnancy; some women may be particularly sensitive to these changes  (women)
  • individual social circumstances, such as money worries, poor social support or relationship problems (men and women)
  • Traumatic pregnancy or birth experience (women)
  • Early childhood trauma, where difficult feelings have been buried and are evoked following the birth of your baby (men and women)

If you think that a partner, relative or friend is showing the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression, be supportive and encourage them to talk to their health visitor, midwife of GP.

Treatment and interventions for postnatal depression include:

  • self-help advice
  • listening visits (health Visitors have specific training in this, they are carried out in your home and your baby is included in this visit.
  • talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), mindfulness and counselling.
  • antidepressant medication


Read more about post-natal depression on the NHS website