Factsheet: Postnatal Depression

This factsheet is available in a downloadable PDF here.

Table of Contents

Things You may be Thinking
What can Help?


Postnatal Depression is a depressive episode which has its onset during pregnancy or during the first year after the birth of a baby.

Although it may feel like you are completely alone Postnatal Depression is actually a fairly common reaction to having a baby with 10-15% of all mothers having some experience of dealing with the symptoms.  In effect that means at least 10,000 women in Scotland every year will feel some of the things that you are going through.

These symptoms often include some of the following:

  • Tearfulness
  • High anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of disappointment and guilt
  • Despair
  • Loss of any sexual response
  • Confusion leading to conflicting thoughts and feelings
  • Loss of confidence and feelings of self worth
  • Poor appetite
  • Exhaustion
  • Not being able to sleep (even when your baby is)

Many mothers end up feeling overwhelmed by the responsibility of having a new baby and you may begin to lose a sense of who you are and your ability to cope.  This can lead to difficult thoughts and feelings about yourself and your baby and can put a severe strain on your relationship with the father of your baby and/or other members of your family.

Things You may be Thinking

Am I a bad mother?

Having Postnatal Depression does not mean that you are going mad or that you are a bad mother.  Mothers who have Postnatal Depression are often trying very hard to do their very best for everybody including their babies.  Having a baby, whether it is your first child or an additional child, is not an easy thing to do for anyone.  If you also have to deal with the symptoms of Postnatal Depression it can all feel out of control and it becomes very difficult indeed.

It is all my fault.  I should do better.

Postnatal Depression is not something that you choose to have.  It is not possible to wish it away and you are not just a disorganised person who is a victim of your own hormones.  It is important to recognise that this is a common but distressing response to childbirth and it is important to seek support and treatment so that you can begin to feel better.’I couldn’t believe what was happening.  Instead of being the best time of my life it had turned into some sort of nightmare and  I thought I had made a huge mistake’

‘I spent the first few months feeling disappointed and guilty.  I seemed to snap at the slightest thing and felt frustrated at the demands of my baby.  I had turned into a person I barely recognised.  I kept telling myself I should just get over it.  This is how it was going to be, and yet that made me feel worse.’

What can Help?

Mothers are all different and it is important to work out what sort of support will work best for you and your individual circumstances.

Often finding someone to talk with and being able to share the difficult thoughts and feelings is an important first step.

Who to tell for the first time can be a difficult thing to work out.  Your Midwife, Health Visitor and GP will all have heard of Postnatal Depression and will have suggestions about what is available in your area.

Sometimes it is possible to ask someone close to you for practical support and help.  They may know that you are finding things difficult but may not know how to help.  They may be relieved to be able to do something to help with the baby, other children or household tasks which seem impossible.

Making a regular time to think and talk as well as let off steam can be helpful.  Counselling, Art Therapy and Group Work are all possibilities and there may be individual counsellors or specialist projects in your area which would help make this possible.  Many women find that having Postnatal Depression can be an opportunity to look at different areas of their own lives.

Some women find that taking anti-depressants is supportive and can help with difficult emotions.  You can discuss options with your GP.  There are different types of anti-depressant and they will help work out what might be the best one for you.

One of the things that may work best for you is a combination of anti-depressants and counselling.

If sleep is a particular issue, grab it when you can.

Getting better may take some time.  There is no instant cure and it is important not to be too hard on yourself and to allow yourself the time you need.

‘Slowly things began to get better.  I found myself crying less and beginning to enjoy life again.  It was such a huge relief to find that life could be different and that I was going to get through this.’

External websites related to Postnatal Depression

These web sites may be useful. Please note that we are not responsible for external sites; if you find any broken links or inappropriate content please report it to the site administrators using the feedback page.

  • Saneline
    Saneline is a national mental health helpline providing emotional support and information. Anyone affected by mental illness can use this line, including carers and concerned friends or family. The helpline number is 0300 304 7000. The Helpline is open outside of normal office hours, from 4.30pm - 10.30pm pm every day of the year. The person who answers the phone will be empathetic and non-judgemental, providing a space for you to talk about any aspect of your mental health, or the mental health of someone you care about. You can get emotional support to address your individual experience, as well as help to explore options and action.
  • Samaritans
    Samaritans provides confidential emotional support, 24 hours a day for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide. You don't have to be suicidal to call us. We are here for you if you're worried about something, feel upset or confused, or you just want to talk to someone.
  • Association for Post Natal Illness
    The Association for Post-Natal Illness is the leading organisation in its field, it is a Registered Charity (No. 280510) and it was established in 1979 to: - Provide support to mothers suffering from post-natal illness - Increase public awareness of the illness - To encourage research into its cause and nature
  • Children 1st – Parentline
    At some time all parents find that parenting can be difficult, stressful, even impossible. ParentLine Scotland is the free, confidential, telephone helpline for anyone caring for a child in Scotland. You can call about any problem, however big or small.

Phonelines Related to Postnatal Depression

  • The Samaritans

    08457 90 90 90

    The Samaritans will not try to give you advice, judge you or tell you what to do, they will just listen and support you. They are there for anyone, especially those who are suicidal or in crisis.


    0845 767 8000

    A telephone helpline offering practical information, crisis care and emotional support to anybody affected by mental health problems. 0845 767 8000 (charged at local rates) 1pm to 11pm every day www.sane.org.uk

  • MAMA

    0845 120 3746

    The Meet A Mum Association was created to try and help thousands of mothers who feel depressed and isolated when their babies are born.

  • ParentLine Scotland

    0808 800 2222

    ParentLine Scotland is the free, confidential helpline run by Scottish charity CHILDREN 1ST. Its highly trained calltakers offer help advice, information, reassurance or just a friendly listening ear to stressed out parents or carers.

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