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Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression affects about 13 percent of new mothers, and can occur at any time during the first year. The risk is also greater for those who have suffered from depression in the past without good support, or who have experienced a stressful event such as a trauma, the death of a family member or friend, or an illness.

What is postnatal depression?

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.

The signs

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

  • experience feelings of hopelessness

  • experience depression during pregnancy

  • believe they just can’t cope

  • feel angry and irritated but not sure why

  • 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

Postnatal depression can affect how they feel about, and care for, their baby and other children. Your cultural background may also affect your experience of postnatal depression.
Plunket is concerned about how postnatal depression impacts on women, children, and their families.

Getting help

Read more about getting support if you think you may be suffering from postnatal depression. Otherwise, talk to your Plunket Nurse. Our Plunket nurses use the Ministry of Health PHQ3 questionnaire to ask all women if, during a previous month, they have often been bothered by feeling down, depressed or hopeless, or felt little interest or pleasure in doing things.


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