How to recognise postnatal depression

Be prepared by knowing the signs and symptoms.

Mild feelings of sadness or fluctuations in mood are very common after the birth of a new child. Up to 80 per cent of new mothers will experience these ‘baby blues’ in the first couple of weeks. Luckily, these feelings usually pass on their own within a day or two.

For some new parents, however, the emotional toll of childbirth can be more serious. One in seven new mums will experience postnatal depression, a more severe or prolonged episode of emotional changes that can include strong depressive mood swings, anxiety, social withdrawal, irritability and loss of enjoyment in usual activities.


A newborn baby and mother

Symptoms of postnatal depression

Postnatal depression can start slowly or suddenly and can range from a mild feeling of sadness to severe depression. It is most common after a woman’s first pregnancy, and usually develops in the first few weeks or months after the birth.

Symptoms of postnatal depression can include:

  • Low self-esteem and confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy and guilt
  • Loss of enjoyment of usual activities
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Irritability
  • Tearfulness
  • A feeling of being unable to cope
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Panic attacks
  • Loss of libido
  • Fears for baby’s or partners’ safety or wellbeing.

Postnatal depression can also cause sufferers to withdraw from those around them and in some cases from their partner and child. It can also interfere with the ability to continue normal daily routines, which can in turn cause distress. 

Risk factors

You’re more at risk of developing postnatal depression if you’ve suffered from depression before, if you experienced a traumatic birth, or if you have a lack of support around you when the baby arrives. But there are other factors, such as a lack of sleep, being overwhelmed by the big changes that are suddenly happening or being stressed by other events in your life. If you are at risk, mention it to your family, as well as your doctor or midwife before it happens, so you’ve got a team of people looking out for you. Being prepared means you’ll be quicker to recognise and deal with it, if it does happen.

Treating postnatal depression

It’s important to understand that postnatal depression is a real condition that requires support and isn’t something you need to just ‘snap out of’ or ‘get over’. If you have been feeling this way for two weeks or more, make sure you visit your doctor to talk about what you are experiencing. Your doctor will work with you to come up with a treatment plan that might include:

  • Counselling or psychological treatment
  • Support groups
  • Sleep management
  • Diet, exercise and self-care
  • Antidepressant medication

More information on postnatal depression, including risk factors and treatment options is available at beyondblue. You can also call the PANDA national helpline on 1300 726 306 for advice on perinatal anxiety and depression. 


Need a little extra support?

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Eligible members with hospital cover can now talk to a member of our Health Concierge team for advice and guidance on how to have a healthy pregnancy, at no extra cost on 1800 789 414.#

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Members with hospital cover can chat to experienced and qualified nurses over the phone to discuss any health questions or concerns and get professional advice on what to do next. Our nurses are available on 1800 644 325~ for round-the-clock health advice.

Medibank Mental Health Phone Support

Members with Hospital cover can talk with a mental health professional over the phone in relation to any mental health or emotional concern, 24 hours a day 7 days a week by calling 1800 644 325.~

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Things you should know

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# Health Concierge is available to all eligible Medibank members who hold hospital cover. Excludes Overseas Visitor Health Cover, Working Visa Health Cover and Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC). Some referred services may involve out of pocket costs.

While we hope you find this information helpful, please note that it is general in nature. It is not health advice, and is not tailored to meet your individual health needs. You should always consult a trusted health professional before making decisions about your health care. While we have prepared the information carefully, we can’t guarantee that it is accurate, complete or up-to-date. And while we may mention goods or services provided by others, we aren’t specifically endorsing them and can’t accept responsibility for them. For these reasons we are unable to accept responsibility for any loss that may be sustained from acting on this information (subject to applicable consumer guarantees).