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An Exploration of Negative Thoughts as a Normal Phenomenon After Childbirth


  • Pauline L. Hall DClinPsy,

    Corresponding author
    1. Pauline L. Hall, RMN, DClinPsy, is a clinical psychologist in the National Health Service in Greater Manchester, England. Her clinical work includes specializing in the prevention and treatment of perinatal depression.
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  • Anja Wittkowski ClinPsyD

    1. Anja Wittkowski, MPhil, ClinPsyD, is a lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of Manchester. She also works as a clinical psychologist in the National Health Service in South Manchester, where her clinical work is carried out on the regional, inpatient, psychiatric Mother and Baby Unit.
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Dr. Pauline L. Hall, Salford Primary Care Psychological Therapy Service, Bolton, Salford, and Trafford Mental Health NHS Trust, Bury New Road, Prestwich, Manchester, UK, M25 3BL. E-mail:


The period following the birth of a child brings many transitions into a woman's life, which can effect major psychological and social changes, including feelings of loss. If new mothers experience negative thoughts at this time, when societal expectations are of happiness, this may lead to feelings of unacceptability and guilt. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of negative thoughts after childbirth in nondepressed mothers. Following the identification of negative thoughts experienced by women who had suffered postnatal depression, a quantitative survey was conducted, which asked nondepressed mothers to indicate how often they experienced the negative thoughts or images identified by depressed mothers. One hundred and fifty-eight returned questionnaire packs were included in the analyses. The 158 nondepressed mothers acknowledged experiencing all but one of the 54 negative cognitions. Negative cognitions usually associated with postnatal depression are also experienced by mothers who are not considered depressed. This information provides evidence for reassuring new mothers that negative thoughts after childbirth are common. This, in turn, may help to reduce feelings of guilt associated with experiencing negative thoughts in the postpartum period.