6 ways to spot postnatal depression

What starts as baby blues in new mums can deteriorate into severe depression. Look out for these tell-tale signs…


The first few month following baby’s birth will be one of the most challenging times a new mother has to face. It makes sense why many people refer to it as the 100 days of darkness.

Your body is reeling from shock from a severe lack of sleep; you are petrified that you’re now solely responsible for a new life, plus, your hormones are going wild. And this is just the tip of the iceberg!

Babies are a handful, but they are also a blessing. Mums and dads are full of joy when they bring home their little bundles. This is usually followed by several parties to celebrate the newest addition to the family and visits from friends and families who want to take a peek at the new arrival.

During a time when you’re supposed to be bursting with pride, some women may feel the opposite. This is known as the baby blues and many mums go through it during the initial postpartum weeks. 

“Baby blues occurs because of the huge hormonal change that happens in your body after giving birth, which is a huge change,” points out counsellor Silvia Wetherell, who specialises in maternal mental health. “However, if those symptoms prolong for more than two weeks, then it’s probably postnatal depression.”

According to Singhealth, 10 to 15 per cent of women in Singapore get postnatal depression (PND) after childbirth. If it’s not detected early, PND can cause a woman to lose her sense of self, wrecking her marriage and even harm her baby. This was indeed the case back in November 2016, when a 29-year-old Singaporean mum fell to her death with her newborn from the 12th-story of her Bukit Panjang flat.


 “That’s why it’s [postnatal depression] sometimes called the smiling depression, because the mother looks like she’s coping well from the outside.”

Several factors contribute to a mother’s PND. To some extent, hormones play a part, but so do external factors such as breastfeeding struggles, existing problems in the marriage or lack of support. Very often, getting the wrong kind of support can also contribute to a woman’s mental health issues. This can be anything from having a hands-off husband or helicopter in-laws and parents.

Whatever the case, maternal mental health should be taken seriously as it’s not just a hormonal issue that will pass with time. Nor should a woman who has had the courage to talk about her depression be seen as weak and told to toughen up.

“You wouldn’t say that to someone who’s broken their leg. That they just need to get up and be strong and not complain about it,” says Wetherell. “The thing about mental health is that you can’t see it so you can’t take it seriously.”

Another reason why PND is hard to take seriously or even detect is that most mothers are so good at hiding it. One of the big differences between normal depression and PND is that a woman with the latter often looks like she’s coping.  

“That’s why it’s [postnatal depression] sometimes called the smiling depression, because the mother looks like she’s coping well from the outside, and she has to because she has a baby to take care of and she’s getting on with her duties,” explains Wetherell. “It won’t look like a normal depression where you have this idea of a woman crying under the covers and not going to work.”

PND can be tricky to diagnose, but it’s not impossible to do so. A mother who is battling depression internally will demonstrate some outward signs and symptoms that can be picked up by anyone who is keeping an eye out for it.

It’s important that you look out for these six of the most common symptoms ― because you could end up saving lives.