Postnatal depression can develop gradually and it can be hard to recognise. Some parents may avoid talking to family and friends about how they’re feeling because they worry they’ll be judged for not coping or not appearing happy.

Signs for partners, family and friends to look out for in new parents include:

  • frequently crying for no obvious reason
  • having difficulty bonding with their baby, looking after them only as a duty and not wanting to play with them
  • withdrawing from contact with other people
  • speaking negatively all the time and claiming that they're hopeless
  • neglecting themselves, such as not washing or changing their clothes
  • losing all sense of time, such as being unaware whether 10 minutes or two hours have passed
  • losing their sense of humour
  • constantly worrying that something is wrong with their baby, regardless of reassurance

If you think someone you know is depressed, encourage them to talk about their feelings to you, a friend, their GP or their health visitor.

Related conditions As well as postnatal depression, a number of other mental health conditions can also develop after giving birth.

These include:

  • anxiety disorders – including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and panic disorder
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) – unwanted and unpleasant thoughts, images or urges that repeatedly enter a person's mind, causing them anxiety and leading to repetitive behaviours
  • postpartum psychosis – a combination of bipolar-like symptoms (feeling depressed one moment and very happy the next), delusions (believing things that are obviously untrue and illogical) and hallucinations (seeing and hearing things that aren't really there) Speak to your GP or health visitor if you think you may have developed an anxiety disorder or OCD. Contact your GP immediately if you think that you or someone you know may have postpartum psychosis, as it's a medical emergency. If this isn't possible, call NHS 111 or your local out-of-hours service. If you think there's a danger of immediate harm, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.