Postnatal depression and Anxiety

Postnatal depression (PND) and anxiety affects about 10 - 20 percent of new mothers, and can occur at any time during the first year.  You may experience them separately or simultaneously.

The possibility of being affected by PND and/or anxiety may increase if you have experienced depression and anxiety in the past.

Moving house during the perinatal period, experiencing a stressful event such as a trauma, the death of a family member or friend, or an illness can all impact on your mood. Even if you have supports in place you may still experience one or the other, or both.

What is postnatal depression and anxiety?

In the early days of motherhood, women often experience a range of emotions from elation and excitement to times of feeling low, anxious, confused, and tearful. These low feelings are called ‘the blues’ or ‘baby blues’ and are common in the first 2 weeks after your baby’s birth.

For some mothers, however, the low feeling lasts longer and may develop into postnatal depression. With anxiety this can occur alongside depression and some of the signs and symptoms may overlap. It is common to worry about things, however anxiety is when your feelings become extreme and don’t go away and start to affect your daily living and relationships.

The signs of postnatal depression

Postnatal depression is more severe than ‘the blues’, and a mother suffering from it may:

  • have feelings of hopelessness

  • have depression during pregnancy

  • believe they just can’t cope

  • feel angry and irritated but not sure why

  • have a poor appetite or an excessive appetite

  • feel overly anxious about their baby

  • tearful, alone, guilty, and unsupported.

  • have difficulty sleeping even when their baby sleeps

  • have thoughts of harming themselves or their baby

  • feel that they are being a bad mother and that somehow they have to cope

  • not realize they are suffering from postnatal depression

The signs of anxiety

A mother experiencing anxiety may experience:

  • difficulty sleeping

  • restlessness and unable to relax

  • excessive thoughts

  • shaking

  • feeling her worries are increasing

  • struggling to breathe

  • a racing heart

  • constant need to check things

  • concerns around her child/ren

Postnatal depression and anxiety can affect how you feel about, and care for, your baby and other children. Your cultural background may also affect your experience of postnatal depression.

Getting help

Plunket is concerned about how postnatal depression and anxiety impacts women, children and families. 

If you have any concerns or questions, you can contact a PlunketLine nurse 24 hours a day and free from any phone 0800 933 922

Plunket also has a podcast on Paternal Mental Health - see here.

For more information about getting help see here
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