Suddenly, you’re struck down with postnatal depression. You want to know why you’ve
been chosen to deal with this illness, of all the people it could affect. You’re ready to just
get on with becoming a mother – you’ve just given birth to a breathing, unique human
being, having carried it around in your body after nine months. Surely the worst of it
should be over!
All of your questions won’t be magically answered when you find out what condition is
making you feel the way you’re feeling. All of this is completely reasonable.
Don’t fret if you’re pregnant (or hoping to be soon) and happen to have any of the
characteristics outlined in this article. Nothing is set in stone – not your likelihood of
developing postnatal depression, or even your behaviours and quirks. You have plenty of
time to prepare for when your bundle of joy finally comes along. You have the power to pin
down any resources you’ll need in advance, or even to meet with a therapist to develop the
tools and systems needed to form a healthier personality.
Other common risk factors include…
❖ Prior experience of anxiety or depression (especially during the pregnancy);
❖ Relationship problems with a partner or family, or a general lack of support
❖ Breastfeeding difficulties or complications with pregnancy or birth;
❖ A recent loss or other major stressors, including financial or health problems.
There are lots of different factors that can contribute to your likelihood of developing
postnatal depression, and personality is a big one. Postpartum depression finds its chance
to take over when your body and mind succumb to the pressures inflicted by the hormonal
changes associated with giving birth. Some people’s personalities just happen to be perfect
for overcoming these challenging chemical changes and ending postpartum depression
before it takes hold. Other people just aren’t so lucky.
It seems you’re more likely to develop postnatal depression if you have a tendency towards
perfectionism and have unrealistic expectations of how parenthood will go for you. You will
need to place your needs far behind those of your baby, and this means a change of plans,
goals and habits. Babies aren’t born with your timetables and plans in mind, so
motherhood for people with this personality type can come as more of a shock.
For the vast majority of your child’s life, changing plans and making allowances will just be
an unavoidable issue.
Note: Postnatal depression is not a sign of weakness!
After the birth of a baby, any parent can be affected by postnatal depression. The vast
majority of women who develop the condition have led normal lives and experienced
nothing like this before. People with certain personality traits may be more likely to
develop the condition, but that doesn’t make these traits any stronger or weaker than any
Predicting postpartum depression, according to multiple studies, is a lot easier if the
individual in question is prone to neuroticism. Recent studies have found that women with
high neuroticism scores who do not already experience depression are almost four times
more likely to develop symptoms of postnatal depression both six months and six weeks
after giving birth.
Characteristics like loneliness, nervousness, moodiness, envy, jealousy, frustration, worry
and fear can be a result of the high sensitivity associated with neuroticism. From lack of
sleep to hormonal changes, researchers have speculated that mothers who score high for
neuroticism might be affected more significantly by the stressful challenges that come with
caring for a new baby.
Psychic Trait Anxiety (Worry and Low Confidence)
Traits like anxious anticipation of dangers, low self esteem and worry are worthy of
individual mention, although they are also aspects of a neurotic personality. After
childbirth, women who score high in psychic trait anxiety are twice as likely to develop
depressive symptoms as other women.
Lack of Trust
More trusting women, according to recent studies, are less likely to develop postpartum
depression than women with a high mistrust of others, such as not trusting people’s
motives and feeling generally suspicious of others. Stress and depression symptoms may
be further exacerbated if the individual does not feel comfortable seeking help for their
condition or sharing baby-related responsibilities with their family.
More research is needed here, however.
People who tend to avoid new experiences and challenges as a result of a negative outlook,
fear, fatigue, doubt, shyness and worry are said to have “harm avoidant” personalities. In
science research, this trait draws conflicting results. One study on Japanese women did not
find any link between harm avoidance and postnatal depression. However, other studies in
a number of other countries have found connections between the two.
Postnatal Depression: Key Facts
1. Postnatal depression can happen to childbearing women of all ages, and is present
in all socioeconomic classes and cultures.
2. Cases can be severe, moderate or mild.
3. Postnatal depression can occur after “normal” delivery, Caesarean section, stillbirth
4. If you get pregnant again, you can get postnatal depression again.
5. If you haven’t recovered from postnatal depression and become pregnant again, the
symptoms will continue throughout the pregnancy and may get worse.
6. It can occur after any pregnancy, but is most common after a person’s first.
7. It can begin anywhere from during the pregnancy itself (this is called antenatal
depression) up until a number of months after the baby is delivered.
8. A different name has been given to postnatal depression for each generation. It’s
not a modern condition. What we call postnatal depression today may have been
called a “nervous breakdown” 50 years ago.
For more information about postnatal depression, check out Need2Know’s Essential
Guide to Postnatal Depression , which will focus on coping strategies for day-to-day life,
how to approach your treatment and where to find support. Need2Know also have some
great books about insomnia , bipolar disorder and the terrible twos . Whether you’re a new
parent, a parent to be or just interested in the subject, we have all the information you