1 Feb, 2024

Understanding postnatal depression

Pacific mum mother with new born baby and older daughters

The excitement and joy a new baby brings is one of the most precious experiences in life. But for many parents, it’s not always as joyful as they hoped.

Some parents may feel lonely too, as they miss the family or community support they grew up with when they were young. Becoming a parent for the first time, or again, can be a very real challenge. Not to mention the lack of a good night’s sleep!

While it’s quite normal for emotions to go up and down after baby’s arrival, it’s important to notice if the low feelings hang around as it might be postnatal depression.

Postnatal depression affects 10–20% of people who have recently given birth. Living through postnatal depression can be overwhelming, with feelings of great sadness and pain. Postnatal depression is common and can be well treated, and you will get better with the right support and a little time.

Mental Health Foundation, NZ

To know when it’s time to reach out for support for yourself or someone you’re concerned about, you need to be aware of the signs.

Having postnatal depression doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. With so many changes happening over a short space of time, sometimes things can get a bit out of balance. Even though we may not hear it talked about much, there are actually many other mums who have gone through the same experience.

So to help parents and loved ones to be more aware of postnatal depression and how to get support, we’ve have put together some helpful and reliable resources.

Pacific mother holding new born baby indoors

*A note on the medical terms used

In some of materials shared below, you may notice some medical words that are different to 'postnatal'. Here are each of their meanings so it’s clear which phase of mother-hood they are referring to:

  • Prenatal or antenatal – before birth, during pregnancy 
  • Postnatal or postpartum – from birth to 6-8 weeks after birth 
  • Perinatal – during pregnancy and the first year after birth

Important things to know about postnatal depression  

Source: Whānau Āwhina Plunket

It’s normal for your mood to change a lot right after your baby is born, but some mums feel down for much longer, and those feelings may develop into postnatal depression.

Signs of postnatal depression include loss of joy or absence of pleasure, feeling sad, hopeless, worthless, and/or useless, little or no energy, or feeling you just can’t cope with anything.

As with other types of depression, there’s no simple reason why some women are affected.

Depression is an illness and doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent or as a person.

It’s really important for both you and your baby that you get the help you need to get well.

If you’re worried that you might have postnatal depression, talk to your doctor, midwife, Plunket nurse, or Well Child provider right away.

For more information about the symptoms of postnatal depression, why it happens and how mums can get support through this challenging time, head over to Whānau Āwhina Plunket's website.

Information on postnatal depression from the Mental Health Foundation NZ 

The Mental Health Foundation NZ have a really good overview and suggestions for support as well. Their page covers the following:

  • About Post Natal Depression and causes (risk factors) 
  • Symptoms – signs to look for and getting help 
  • Treatment Options – talking therapy (counselling), medication, other ways to support recovery, family/ whānau support and involvement, myths about postnatal depression 
  • Helpful and Links 

“What would I have wanted to know when I was experiencing postnatal depression? That it wasn’t because I was a bad mum. That it didn’t mean I was failing as a mum. That it didn’t mean I didn’t love my baby. And that getting help was a strength, not a sign I was failing.”

Mother with lived experience of postnatal depression, Mental Health Foundation of NZ

'There's no shame': Pasifika mums urged to get help for depression’  

Source: RNZ, by RNZ Pacific Journalist, Sela Jane Hopgood.

A Mother's Cry

Source: RNZ, In-Depth - RNZ Pacific

Pasifika mums Janay Osan and Mele'ana Wickham share their stories about postnatal depression and how they recovered. And Dr Sara Weeks (Consultant Psychiatrist) explains what is really going on when postnatal depression happens and how it’s a real medical condition.

A pacific perspective on postnatal depression 

Source: Mum+ mumplus.co.nz

Dr Seini Taufa, Research and Evaluation Lead for Moana Research, talks about postnatal depression from a Pacific perspective. She asks us to look out for the signs in ourselves and others in our community.

"Retrospectively, with Pacific social structures the way they are, I am often left wondering how our ancestors dealt with depression and whether our communal way of living was a protective factor for recognising signs and working collectively to support our families."

Dr Seini Taufa, Research and Evaluation Lead for Moana Research.

Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale - Tool

Source: PADA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Aotearoa

The Edinburgh postnatal depression scale (EPDS) is one of the tools used to assess mood in women during pregnancy and for the first 12 months after their baby is born. However, only trained health professionals should provide a diagnosis – not this tool.

Use this really helpful tool to see if you may be experiencing depression.

Helpline support

Call PlunketLine free any time, day or night, on 0800 933 922, or call or text 1737 any time to speak with a trained counsellor.   

Other helplines:

Healthline: 0800 611 116 

The Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 

Lifeline: 0800 543 354

Youthline: 0800 376 633 or free text 234. (You can also use their online chat.)

The Lowdown NZ: Free text 5626. (They help young people in particular.)

How we can help

Our Healthy Minds – LagiOla service is available to all patients and users of The Fono's services and Pacific people across Tāmaki Makaurau. Guided by Pacific values we encourage you to reach out, and will support you with tools and strategies for better physical and mental wellness. Click here to read more about our Healthy Minds – LagiOla service.

Remember: If you're ever worried that someone's life is in immediate danger, call 111 or go directly to emergency services.