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Overview of mental illness during & after pregnancy

Tirohanga whānui ki te māuiuitanga hinengaro i te hapūtanga me i muri ake


If a friend is depressed and considering suicide, contact your local mental health crisis team. You can also contact them if a friend is behaving unusually, and this is causing you or others to worry about her or her baby's safety. You can contact your local mental health crisis team on:

Low mood, depression, and anxiety in pregnancy or immediately after a pēpi (baby) is born, are common. They affect many women.

For some women, this might be the first time they experience mental illness. For others, a mental illness that was previously stable might come back during pregnancy or after the pēpi is born.

Anxiety and depression are the most common. Rarely, psychosis can also develop.

Some factors increase the risk of becoming mentally unwell during pregnancy or after childbirth. These include:


Having depression when you are pregnant (antenatal depression), or after your pēpi is born (postnatal depression) is common. You can have depression even when you wanted to get pregnant, and you love your pēpi. It does not mean you are rejecting your pēpi.

Symptoms of depression include:

If you think you have depression, get help as early as possible. It is important for you and your pēpi.

Depression can be treated with a combination of self-care and help from others. This can include support, talking therapies and medication.

Fathers can also get a kind of post-natal depression and may need help.


Many women experience anxiety while they are pregnant or after their pēpi is born. It is understandable since this is a time of great change and anticipation.

For some women this anxiety can become overwhelming. It can also cause problems during their pregnancy or after pēpi baby is born.

Symptoms of severe anxiety include:

Anxiety can also cause physical symptoms. These include a racing heart, feeling sick, shortness of breath and headaches. Sometimes anxiety can go along with depression.

If anxiety is a problem, you can try some ways to help yourself as well as reaching out for help from others.

Other conditions

If you have a history of mental illness like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, you may become unwell during pregnancy and the postnatal period. This means your doctor will need to closely monitor your health for any changes during this time.

Rarely, pregnant women or new mothers may develop a condition called postnatal psychosis. This most often happens in the first month after giving birth. It can be hard to recognise, as someone who has it might not share their thoughts with others.

If you have postnatal psychosis, you might start thinking very unusual thoughts. You may also start believing weird things and acting in strange ways. Postnatal psychosis needs treatment, and usually an admission to a psychiatric hospital. Seek advice from a medical professional if you have concerns about a new mother acting this way.

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On the next page: Self-care for mental illness during & after pregnancy

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2024.


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