As Britney's Memoir Details Her Postnatal Depression Struggle, Here's How To Spot The Signs

“I was displaying just about every symptom of perinatal depression. Sadness. Anxiety. Fatigue," writes the star in her new book, The Woman In Me.
Britney Spears pictured at the 29th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Beverly Hills.
via Associated Press
Britney Spears pictured at the 29th annual GLAAD Media Awards in Beverly Hills.

Britney Spears’ highly anticipated memoir has finally arrived in UK bookstores and people are clambering to get their hands on a copy.

Teasers of the book, titled The Woman In Me, have revealed excerpts of the star’s life on her terms. And what she has laid bare is equal parts tragic and empowering, speaking of the conservatorship she was placed under for 13 years and an abortion she had in her teens, it’s hard not to be moved.

While many of us can’t relate to being under such an intense and unforgiving spotlight, Britney does share her experience of something that one in 10 mothers are expected to struggle with: postnatal depression.

The singer shares two children with ex-husband Kevin Federline: Sean, born in 2005, and Jayden, born in 2006. After the birth of her second child, she said she suffered from depression.

In the memoir, Britney documented motherhood as life-affirming, saying: “My boys gave my life meaning.” Yet she added that “becoming a mother while under so much pressure at home and out in the world was also much, much harder than I expected it would be”.

The pop star also recognised that things were different back when she first had kids, as “there wasn’t the same conversation about mental health back then that there is now”.

“I was displaying just about every symptom of perinatal depression. Sadness. Anxiety. Fatigue,” she wrote.

The singer wanted to share her story in case it would help other mothers struggling. “I hope any new mothers reading this who are having a hard time will get help early and will channel their feelings into something more healing,” she wrote.

What are the signs of postnatal depression?

Postnatal depression is a debilitating mental illness which can, in extreme cases, lead to suicide – a factor that causes 20% of maternal deaths post-birth.

The illness manifests as sleep disorders, mood swings, changes in appetite, fear of injury, serious concerns about the baby, deep sadness and crying, sense of doubt, difficulty in concentrating and lack of interest in daily activities.

It’s nothing short of despair-filled misery that can feel all-consuming; disrupting relationships, family life, careers and in some cases child wellbeing.

Knowing who is most likely to experience postnatal depression is an incomplete science, though it’s thought that factors such as genetics, biology, socio-economic stance and history of mental illness could play a role.

When should I seek help for postnatal depression?

Georgia Strummer, a registered counsellor, tells HuffPost UK: ”As with anything that relates to our emotional or physical wellbeing, it’s always best to seek help as soon as you can. If you’re still under the care of your perinatal mental health team, then they are a great first port of call.”

After giving birth, many mothers (and their partners) are told to watch out for the signs of ‘baby blues’ – but this is different to postnatal depression, says the counsellor.

“This is a common response to the physical and emotional toll of pregnancy and childbirth,” says Strummer, of the baby blues. “But the ‘baby blues’ usually disappear within the first two weeks of the postpartum period.”

Strummer advises that postnatal depression is noticeably different: “There isn’t one specific sign or indicator, but it’s often recognised as a feeling of sadness, depression or low mood that simply doesn’t go away. It can be accompanied by feeling helpless, or anxious, or frightened about looking after your baby.”

The counsellor explains that postnatal depression doesn’t always happen straight away, either. “In fact, the NHS definition of postnatal depression suggests that it can start at any point in the first year after giving birth,” she adds.

How long does postnatal depression last?

There is no set timeframe for how long postnatal depression lasts, meaning it can lift as quickly as it sets in, or be there for the long haul.

The NHS offers counselling and talk therapies like CBT to help those suffering from the illness, as well as a course of antidepressants to help alleviate some of the load.

However, when it comes to managing symptoms and recovering from the effects of postnatal depression, Strummer says that support networks are key: “If we are able to lean on other people for practical and emotional support, then this can be really helpful.”

But part of the challenge is that sometimes postnatal depression is accompanied by embarrassment or shame.

Shame can contribute massively to how soon mothers feel able to access postnatal depression services. Strummer explains that, in the past, postnatal depression was barely spoken of and because of that there is a legacy of stigma.

“However, this is definitely something that is changing as we become more open,” she says, more hopefully.

Strummer is quick to remind anyone experiencing postnatal depression how common it is, and that they are not alone – nor are they failures or bad mothers.

“Like so many things in women’s lives – miscarriage, periods, menopause – it’s often spoken about in hushed tones,” she adds. “But it’s so important to be able to open up.”

If you need support, you can reach out to APP Network, The Association for Post Natal Illness, Birth Trauma Association. For anything urgent, contact your GP or your perinatal mental health team.

Help and support:

  • Mind, open Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm on 0300 123 3393.
  • Samaritans offers a listening service which is open 24 hours a day, on 116 123 (UK and ROI - this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill).
  • CALM (the Campaign Against Living Miserably) offer a helpline open 5pm-midnight, 365 days a year, on 0800 58 58 58, and a webchat service.
  • The Mix is a free support service for people under 25. Call 0808 808 4994 or email
  • Rethink Mental Illness offers practical help through its advice line which can be reached on 0808 801 0525 (Monday to Friday 10am-4pm). More info can be found on