What Causes Post Natal Depression (Part 1)

What Causes Post Natal Depression (Part 1)

by Dr Emma Gray - 17th October, 2014

Having a baby makes you vulnerable to depression but not for the reasons that you may think. The first part of this blog considers two of these.

In the first few weeks after having a baby the physical/hormonal adjustments that the body must make will have an impact on your emotions, leading to bouts of sudden and often unexplained tearfulness, this is referred to as ‘’the baby blues”.

However, the body (from a physiological perspective) soon rebalances itself, we are designed to reproduce and our bodies are designed to cope with this. Post natal depression is a mental health problem that usually occurs a number of weeks after the birth of a baby, sometimes a number of months and so cannot be attributed to hormonal or physiological changes occurring post natally.

So what causes Postnatal Depression? There does not seem to be one single cause but a number of factors will put you at risk.

1. Previous Episodes of Depression

Having a baby marks a significant change in a new mother’s life; everything from her role and responsibilities to her daily routine, social network and relationship with her partner and own parents will undergo a transformation like no other she has ever experienced before.

Such a massive change can be extremely destabilising and presents both practical and psychological challenges; this places a new mother in a vulnerable position and any previous unresolved issues are therefore likely to resurface, in particular previous episodes of both depression and anxiety but also problems like eating disorders (inc. anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder) and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

2. Low Self Esteem

The challenges facing a new mother, like any, require confidence if they are to be negotiated comfortably. Those with low self esteem and confidence are prone to underestimate themselves (especially when in unknown territory), criticise themselves and compare themselves negatively to others. All of these ways of think make an individual vulnerable to depression, whether they have just had a baby or not.

This is part one of a multi part article. Click below to navigate.


Dr Emma Gray

Dr Emma Gray

I am often the first person with whom my patients share significant and intimate thoughts and memories; I never take that privileged position for granted nor the opportunity to help someone to feel better about themselves and discover a more fulfilling life. One of my colleague once described me as natural psychologist; I guess she was alluding to the fact that I feel at ease being a therapist, I can empathise with people’s distress and discomfort but don’t feel overwhelmed by it, I can understand their problem and know how to help, it has always just felt like what I should be doing.


Read more about my approach to counselling here...


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