Recognising the Signs and Symptoms of Perinatal Depression & Mental ill-health

Knowing the signs and symptoms of mental ill-health during pregnancy & parenthood will enable you to access the right support.


Postnatal depression (PND) can affect a woman following the birth of her child. It is also not uncommon for this illness to affect fathers. About one-third of mothers will have developed the symptoms of depression during pregnancy. These symptoms include tiredness, anxiety and irritability.

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With PND, there may not be strong feelings of sadness or unhappiness. This may mean that those affected don’t seek help as they believe it is the result of sleep loss and coping with the demands of a new baby. PND can also present feelings of anxiety. For more information on anxiety, click here.

The 'Pinks'

In the three days following childbirth, most women experience a ‘high’ where they feel happy and excited and may have difficulties sleeping. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘Pinks’. However, some women feel a sense of anti-climax and may even be indifferent to their new baby initially.  Generally, all these feelings are normal and pass in a matter of days.

The 'Baby Blues'

The ‘Baby Blues’ can affect about 85% of new mothers. They normally start around the third day after childbirth and last for a few days. Baby Blues are characterized by mood swings and irritability and are generally attributed to hormonal changes and tiredness.

Antenatal depression affects about 10-15% of women in the first three months of pregnancy – particularly if there are marital problems or doubts about having a baby or perhaps if depression was pre-existing prior to pregnancy. Most of the symptoms normally clear as the pregnancy progresses.

Postpartum Psychosis

This is a serious and rare illness, which affects about 1 in 1000 women and begins in the days or weeks following childbirth. It is a medical emergency and help should be sought as soon as possible.

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If there is an underlying illness such as Bipolar Disorder, pregnancy may be a precipitating factor.

Depression is treatable and is not a sign of weakness. It is important to seek help & support as soon as possible

Helpful tips for all new mums:

  • Watch the video below of Dr Sproule explaining more about how new mums can help themselves after the baby is born
  • Eat a good, balanced diet – eat well and regularly even if you don’t feel like it
  • Make up for lost sleep – take every opportunity to get some sleep or rest
  • Ask for help with night time feeds if you can and try to sleep when your baby sleeps
  • Stay active - ask your health visitor if there are mother and baby exercise classes near you, walk your baby regularly.
  • Avoid alcohol (especially when pregnant or breast-feeding as it can harm your baby) or keep to safe limits.

AWARE is the depression charity for Northern Ireland and the only charity working exclusively for those with depression and bipolar disorder.

Aware Defeat Depression, known as AWARE, Queen Street, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, BT48 7EQ, Company No: NI30447. Registered with the Charity Commission for Northern Ireland with charity registration number NIC100561


Tel: 028 9035 7820

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Tel: 028 7126 0602

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