Postnatal emotional wellbeing

Mum and baby smiling

Having a baby is a life-changing experience. It’s physically challenging but also deeply emotional and it’s natural for new parents to feel overwhelmed and anxious.  

Emotional changes

Having a baby is a life-changing experience. It’s physically challenging but also deeply emotional and it’s natural for new parents to feel overwhelmed and anxious. Getting to know your baby and having a new routine will take time. So be kind to yourself and take things at your and your baby’s own pace.

  • You’ll probably find you’ll experience a range of feelings and emotions – perhaps joy, pride and love mixed with anxiety, tearfulness and stress. These feelings are normal, and you can expect to feel up and down as you get used to your new role.
  • Experiencing ‘baby blues’ is very common and is thought to be due to the sudden hormonal and chemical changes that take place in your body after childbirth. Symptoms include feeling emotional, irritable, tearful, anxious or low in mood. They usually only last a few days and usually pass within two weeks after birth. These symptoms are usually normal but it’s a good idea to note how you are feeling and seek help if you’re worried. Our Perinatal Specialist midwife is available to offer additional support.
  • Some people find that revisiting their birth experience helps with their emotional wellbeing, especially if it did not go according to their expectations. You may want to discuss this before you go home from hospital, or it may be several months before you have fully processed your experience and feel ready to talk about it. Please let your community midwife know if you would like to access our ‘Birth Matters Clinic’ to speak to a specialist midwife about your experience.

Maternal mental health

Postnatal (perinatal depression)

Perinatal depression affects approximately 1 in 13 women following the birth of their baby.  Most women who develop perinatal depression do so within the first 12 weeks following birth although for some women it may be later than this. It can occur at any time within your pregnancy or the first year of the birth of your baby.  

Depression takes many forms and it can be hard to know when to seek help.

When you may need further support

Please seek help if you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms as this indcates that you may need further support:

  • Low mood / sadness
  • Loss of pleasure or interest
  • Loss of confidence
  • Appetite changes
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep difficulties not related with the baby
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Tearfulness
  • Irritability
  • A sense of isolation
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Intrusive memories, flashbacks, re-experiencing aspects of birth experience
  • Fear and helplessness
  • Inability to cope with everyday tasks or work effectively

Postpartum psychosis

Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health illness that can affect a woman soon after she has a baby. Many women will experience mild mood changes after having a baby, known as the "baby blues". This is normal and usually only lasts for a few days.

But postpartum psychosis is very different from the "baby blues". It's a serious mental illness and should be treated as a medical emergency.

Warning signs include:

  • Recent significant change in mental state – severe high/low mood, confusion, paranoia, delusions, unusual behaviour.
  • Thoughts of self-harm or acts of violence.
  • Continuously saying they are not a good mother or refusing to care for the infant.

These signs may appear from birth and is most likely to appear in the first few weeks. A woman may not have all of the signs above. It should be treated as a medical emergency. If not treated immediately, things can get rapidly worse.

You should talk to your Health Visitor, Midwife or GP.

We know that some people are worried about voicing concerns and it takes courage to ask for help.

We do not make any judgement and you will not be alone. Women who do access treatment or support can and do get better.