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Contributing factors to postnatal anxiety and depression

Postnatal anxiety and depression can affect anyone, including women and their non-birthing partners.

Illustration of mum, dad and baby looking uneasy

Symptoms of postnatal anxiety or depression can feel confusing and upsetting.

After your baby is born, you might be feeling surprised at the intensity of feelings and thoughts you’re having.

It might feel hard to talk to anyone else about how you’re feeling, especially if you hoped and wanted your baby’s arrival to be a time of joy and celebration.

Postnatal anxiety and depression can happen after your first baby or any subsequent children. You may experience mental health changes after one birth, but not another. Symptoms can arrive without warning and impact on your daily function, relationships and bond with your little one.

Some new parents are considered at higher risk of developing postnatal anxiety or depression due to a range of contributing factors (see below).

However, it’s important to note that many new parents can develop postnatal anxiety or depression even if they don’t have any particular risk factors. After a baby is born, changes to mental health and emotional wellbeing can happen to any new parent.

“t wasn't until I began feeling like I wasn't coping that I realised that my level of anxiety was not normal. I needed help to deal with it.”


To deepen your own understanding and help you communicate your experience to other people, we’ve put together a guide to some of the factors that can contribute to changes in your mental health during pregnancy.

Please keep in mind that even though we’ve used the words woman and mum here, the contributing factors listed below can apply to both birthing women and non-birth parents.

You may experience uncertainty and low mood after your baby is born because:

  • You might feel guilt and/or shame about feeling unhappy, especially if others expect you to be overjoyed and excited about having a baby.
  • Maybe you feel unsure and fearful about your new role as a parent.
  • You may be experiencing changes in your relationship. For instance, you may feel your partner is less involved or interested in caring for your baby. Some Mums tell us they feel frustrated, sad and resentful that their partner’s life seems less impacted by lifestyle changes during early parenthood.
  • Your relationships with family and friends may be shifting. It can be hard staying home with a newborn and feeling everybody else in your life is busy getting on with their own lives.
  • You may be grieving the loss of your working identity and have concerns about delays in career or long-term goals.
  • Your family may be experiencing financial difficulties, adding an extra layer of stress during an already intense time of change.
  • You may be feeling stressed about becoming a parent and having a new baby during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Helpful Information

Jane's story
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“My advice to anyone in this position, is to seek help, don't suffer alone. It will pass. I know it feels like it will never end, but it will.”


Factors that may contribute to postnatal anxiety and depression


Family or personal history of anxiety or depression


Stressful life events


Traumatic birth


Birth disappointment 


Pregnancy complications


Fertility issues or previous pregnancy loss


Relationship difficulties


Family violence and controlling behaviour


History of abuse and trauma


Financial difficulties


Difficult childhood experiences


Limited social support


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PANDA National Helpline

Find someone to talk to, Monday to Saturday.

1300 726 306

Call 000 for police and ambulance if you or someone else are in immediate danger

Talk with friends or family

Consider talking about how you are feeling with someone you trust. This might be a friend or family member. Once you starting talking you might be surprised at how many others have had similar experiences and the support they can provide you.

Talk with your doctor

Talking with your doctor can be an important step to getting the help you need. They should be able to give you non-judgemental support, assessment, diagnosis, and ongoing care and treatment. They can also refer you to specialists such as a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Get help now

If you are having suicidal thoughts or are feeling disorientated it’s important to get help immediately. PANDA is not a crisis service, if you need immediate support call Lifeline 13 11 14 (24/7).

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Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting is unique and brings different rewards and challenges. Our mental health checklist can help you to see if what you’re experiencing or observing in a loved one could be a reason to seek help.