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Women and Newborn Health Service

Health A – Z


Emotional Health for Parents

What Causes Emotional Problems

A number of emotional problems can arise when you’re pregnant or have had a baby.

A lot of things can add to feelings of stress, anxiety or depression during pregnancy or after the baby arrives.

Problems may arise from biological, emotional or social factors in your life. (That’s right – it’s not just hormones!)

Most people can cope with a few antenatal or postnatal difficulties, but multiple problems can be too much for anyone.

Biological or genetic risk factors

Medical risk factors

Biological or genetic risk factors

  • A personal and/or family history of mental health issues
  • Severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • Problems getting enough sleep

Emotional risk factors

  • 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
  • Feelings that no one listened during the birth process

Family or relationship risk factors

  • Relationship difficulties
  • Being a single parent or having a partner who works away a lot
  • A lack of practical and emotional support
  • A partner who is depressed
  • Other people (partner, older children, visitors) still expect to be looked after in the same way

Infant-related risk factors

  • More than one baby (twins, triplets, etc)
  • Problems with the baby’s health (including being born premature)
  • Separation from the baby (e.g., if the baby is ill or premature)
  • The baby is “difficult” (easily upset, problems feeding, sleeping)

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Life event risk factors

  • Moving house
  • Change or loss of job
  • Money problems (like debt)
  • Death or illness of a family member or friend
  • Childhood or past abuse, assault or trauma
  • Natural disaster (e.g., drought, flood, bush fires)

Medical risk factors

  • Past and present obstetric complications, including fertility problems
  • Previous pregnancy loss (miscarriage), termination (abortion) or neonatal death
  • 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 ok at the moment. By talking about these issues, you and your health professional can keep an eye on your emotions.

Also be aware that the impact of these factors can be reduced with support and understanding from your partner, family and friends.

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