Causes of emotional problems in parents with new babies

A number of emotional problems can arise when you're pregnant or have had a baby. These can add to your feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.

Problems may arise from biological, emotional or social factors in your life.

Most people can cope with a few difficulties, but multiple problems or risk factors can be too much for anyone to handle.

Biological or genetic risk factors

Such factors can include:

  • a personal and/or family history of mental health issues
  • severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • problems getting enough sleep.
Emotional risk factors

This includes:

  • having severe baby blues
  • depression or anxiety during pregnancy, or previously in your life
  • an anxious, perfectionist personality, being a worrier or having a negative view of life
  • low self-esteem, especially being very critical of yourself
  • unplanned pregnancy, being unsure about having a baby
  • feeling that no one listened during the birth process.
Family or relationship risk factors

These can include:

  • relationship difficulties
  • being a single parent or having a partner who works away
  • a lack of practical and emotional support
  • a partner who is depressed
  • other people (for example your partner, older children or visitors) who still expect to be looked after by you in the same way.
Infant-related risk factors

For example:

  • more than one baby (twins, triplets)
  • problems with your baby's health (including being born premature)
  • separation from your baby (for example, if your baby is ill)
  • your baby is difficult (for example, if he or she becomes easily upset or has problems feeding or sleeping).
Life event risk factors

Such factors include:

  • moving house
  • change or loss of job
  • money problems (debt)
  • death or illness of a family member or friend
  • childhood or past abuse, assault or trauma
  • natural disaster (for example, drought, flood and bush fires).
Medical risk factors

These risk factors include:

  • complications during or after pregnancy, including fertility problems
  • previous pregnancy loss (miscarriage), termination (abortion) or death of a newborn baby
  • complications during the pregnancy, labour or delivery (for mother or baby)
  • more medical intervention in the birth than was expected
  • a long, difficult or traumatic labour.

If any of these factors apply to you, you might like to talk with a health professional, even if you feel okay at the moment. By talking about these issues, you and your health professional can check on your emotions.

The impact of these factors can be reduced with support and understanding from your partner, family and friends.

Where to get help

  • See your doctor, obstetrician, child health nurse or midwife
  • Talk to a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist
  • Phone the Pregnancy, Birth and Baby Helpline on 1800 882 436
  • Phone the Mental Health Emergency Response Line – Perth metro 1300 55 788 or Peel 1800 676 822
  • Phone Rural Link, an after-hours mental health phone service for rural communities, on 1800 552 002
  • Phone the Post and Antenatal Depression Association helpline on 1300 726 306 (9.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday)
  • Phone the Parenting Line on 1800 654 432
  • Visit healthdirect (external site) or call 1800 022 222

Last reviewed: 07-01-2019
Women and Newborn Health Service

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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