What is Postnatal Depression?

Postnatal depression is depression that is lasting, as opposed to the baby blues, which are typically short lived.  It usually occurs shortly after the birth, although it may go unrecognised for quite some time.  Postnatal Depression affects more than 15% of women and 10% of men.  PND can develop between one month and up to one year after the birth of a baby.

There are three recognised mood disorders in the postpartum period.

Baby Blues

The baby blues usually occur between three and 10 days after giving  birth. The ‘baby blues’ are common and affect around 80 per cent of women.  Women with the ‘baby blues’ may feel tearful and overwhelmed, due to changes in  hormone levels following childbirth. The ‘baby blues’ is common and to be  expected following the birth of a baby. The ‘baby blues’ usually disappear within a few days without treatment, other than support.


PND is treatable illness that can cause fatigue, sadness, loss of enjoyment in activities, irritability, and anger.

PND can occur also occur during pregnancy (antenatal depression).

It can occur in all cultures, equally common in Maori and Europeans, all socio-economic classes and at all ages.

It happens mostly after the first baby but can occur after any other pregnancy. If you do develop postnatal depression there is a 50% chance that you will be affected in subsequent pregnancies.

Post Natal Psychosis

Affects one in 500 women in the first week or so after childbirth. It involves having difficulties thinking clearly (thought disturbance), seeing or hearing things that are not there (hallucinations), feeling everyone is against you (paranoia) and powerful delusions. This is a medical emergency and a doctor should be contacted immediately.

There is risk to the life of both mother and baby if the problem is not recognised and treated. Postnatal psychosis requires a hospital stay. With appropriate treatment women suffering from postnatal psychosis fully recover.