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Postnatal depression is thought to be caused by a number of things working together.

Some of these include:

Personal history

If you have a history of depression or had it in pregnancy before, you have a higher chance of experiencing postnatal depression.

Contact your GP or midwife if you are pregnant and worried about depression.

Support from family or partner

You may be more likely to suffer depression after having a baby if you do not have support from your partner or family.

Changes in lifestyle

The birth of a baby brings changes to your life. Newborn babies are hard work. You are dealing with the constant demands of feeding, bathing, crying and putting your baby to sleep. This usually means you lose a lot of sleep.

You lose the freedom you enjoyed before your baby arrived. This sense of loss can be difficult to cope with. It can contribute to the development of depression.

It may take time for you to find ways to adjust to your changed circumstances.

Strain on relationships

The birth of a baby can also have a huge impact on your relationships with your partner, family and friends. This can sometimes cause enormous strain.

Stressful life events

Recent life events, such as bereavement or serious illness, may mean that you were stressed before your baby was born. You may also be stressed because of work or money.

Images of motherhood

Media and online images can make you feel that new mothers should be attractive, energetic and live in a perfect home with a supportive partner.

Many women think mothering is instinctive. But it is a skill you need to learn. If you find the weeks and months after childbirth difficult, you may feel that you are the only one not coping. This can lead to overwhelming feelings of failure and isolation.

Non-urgent advice: Contact a GP or public health nurse if:

  • you are feeling overwhelmed

It is important to talk to someone. Even speaking to a family member or close friend will help.

Biological factors

Some women who develop postnatal depression have low thyroid hormones. This is linked to low mood. Treating this may lead to an improvement in mood.

There is a significant increase in your hormones during the third trimester in pregnancy. These hormones drop quickly soon after the birth of your baby.

Some women may be particularly vulnerable to this drop in hormones. There is no firm scientific evidence to support this, but there is ongoing research on the subject.

Page last reviewed: 26 April 2023
Next review due: 26 April 2026