We tend to think of pregnancy and having a baby as an exciting time for families but it’s important to remember not all parents feel this way.
Either parent may be feeling overwhelmed, and have mixed feelings about becoming a parent and your new baby when they arrive. In fact, feeling like that is very common.
Having a baby can often leave parents with feelings of worry, stress, anxiety and low mood.
Postnatal depression and anxiety
Many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is often called the 'baby blues' and is so common that it's considered normal.
The 'baby blues' do not last for more than two weeks after giving birth. If your partner's symptoms last longer or start later, they could have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression can start any time in the first year after giving birth.
Signs that your partner might be depressed include:
- A persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- Lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
- Lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- Trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from contact with other people
- Problems concentrating and making decisions
- Frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby
Many women do not realise they have postnatal depression, because it can develop gradually.
Obsessive compulsive disorder
It's also very common for new mums to experience symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). These can include obsessions, which can bring about distressing thoughts, images and urges. These thoughts then often cause anxiety. Compulsions (repeating activities such as washing) are also common.
With perinatal OCD, symptoms often focus on the baby and it's common for mums to worry about their baby being contaminated with germs, which can even prevent them from holding their baby. They may also increase clothes washing and handwashing. Sometimes, mums can experience distressing images and check on their baby repeatedly throughout the day and night.
Occasionally, some women experience postpartum psychosis, which develops shortly after the birth of their baby. Symptoms of postpartum psychosis include:
- Hallucinations and delusions
- Manic mood – talking very quickly
- Feeling suspicious or fearful
- Acting out of character
Postpartum psychosis is a rare but serious mental health condition that will need extra support in the community or in some cases, an inpatient stay on a mother and baby unit.
The most severe symptoms tend to last two to 12 weeks, and it can take six to 12 months or longer to recover from the condition. But with treatment, most women with postpartum psychosis do make a full recovery.
If your partner is experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression, anxiety, psychosis or OCD, they can have a big impact you too. You may feel:
- Worried about your partner’s mental health and how to help
- Worried about what will happen if you ask for help
- Worried about being able to care for your partner and baby
- Worried about how to balance work, childcare and finances
How to get help
If you feel your partner is becoming unwell or you are worried, you can contact:
- Your GP
- Your health visitor
- Your community midwife
If you need urgent help or feel your partner is experiencing a mental health crisis, visit the help in a crisis page
on our website.
It’s important to try not to judge your partner and to encourage her to seek help. Offering reassurance that you are there to support her, the baby and any other children you have, will be a great comfort.