Post natal depression is a term used to describe mood disorders occurring to women in the first year after birth of a child, there may be a fine line between what is considered normal and abnormal. There are 3 different postnatal disorders that can appear.

The Baby Blues

In the first week after the birth of a baby, up to 80 percent of all women will experience a period of mild depression commonly called the baby blues. This is usually a time of extra sensitivity and symptoms include tiredness, anxiety, tearfulness, insomnia and mood changes that tend to peak between 3-5 days.

Post partum Psychosis

Post partum psychosis is the least common of postnatal disorders. This condition usually appears within the first few months following childbirth and may occur in mothers with a personal or family history of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder (manic depression).

Postnatal Depression

Postnatal depression has a much slower insidious onset. It is most likely to occur between the 3rd and 9th month after the birth of the baby. It is not a transitory condition and it may persist for 6-15 months or longer. Experiences vary considerably but usually include several of the following symptoms. Some symptoms may not indicate a severe problem. However, persistent low mood or loss of interest or pleasure in activities, along with four other symptoms occurring together for a period of at least two weeks indicate clinical depression and require treatment.


Persistent low mood
Inadequacy, failure, hopelessness, helplessness
Exhaustion, emptiness, sadness, tearfulness
Guilt, shame, worthlessness
Confusion, anxiety, panic
Fear for the baby and of the baby
Wanting to run away


Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities (including sex)
Insomnia or excessive sleep, nightmares
Not eating or overeating
Decreased energy and motivation
Withdrawal from social contact
Poor self care
Inability to cope with routine tasks


Inability to think clearly and make decisions
Lack of concentration and poor memory
Running away from everything
Fear of being rejected by partner
Worry about harm or death to partner or baby
ideas about suicide.


There are several treatment options for postnatal depression including medication, counselling, group therapy and self-help support groups, depending on the woman¡¦s needs.

Medication alone is never sufficient and should always be accompanied by counselling or other support services.

Useful specific treatments include: - individual counselling, relationship counselling, psychotherapy including cognitive behavioural therapy and antidepressant medication.

Helping Yourself

Remember that this time of stress does not last forever and there are useful things you can do for yourself. Including:

„X Trust your own judgement.

„X Make each day as simple as possible. Avoid extra pressures or unnecessary tasks.

„X If you have a partner, involve them in the care of the baby from the beginning.

„X Discuss with your partner how you can equally share the household chores and responsibilities.

„X Accept all reasonable offers of help, especially in the first few weeks.

„X Find someone you feel comfortable with to share your feelings and concerns.

„X Call Tresillian or Lifeline when you need someone to talk to ¡V whatever the hour.

„X Don¡¦t spend time with people who lead you to feel worse about your self or your mothering

„X Try to get out of the house at least once a day.

„X Give yourself ¡¥time out¡¦ each day and do something you enjoy.

„X Maintain an active social life.

„X Meet other mothers in your area.

„X Take a sleep or rest when the baby is sleeping.

„X Eat regular healthy meals

„X Organise to do regular exercise

„X If you notice prolonged changes from how you normally feel or behave seek help as early as possible.

„X Above all value your self and your role as a mother


„X Your GP can offer assessment, medication, advice and referral

„X Women¡¦s Health Centre

„X Local Community Health Centre (see listing in the White Pages)

„X Women¡¦s Information and Referral Service: 1 800 817 227

„X Mental Health Information Service: 9816 5688 / 1 800 674 200 (outside Sydney)

„X Tresillian 1800 637 357

„X Lifeline 13 11 14


The information provided is to be used for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for seeking professional care in the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders. Information may be reproduced with an acknowledgement to the Mental Health Association NSW. This, and other fact sheets are available for download from www.mentalhealth.asn.au. This fact sheet was last updated in Spring, 2001. Back-to-Directory BACK TO “Your Health Online”
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