Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

Loss of identity after having a baby

3-minute read

Having a baby will change your life. But some new parents struggle because they feel they have lost their identity as an individual, as a person. They feel this identity has been replaced by their identity as a parent. Maybe this is how you feel, but there is still plenty you can do to help you adjust.

What is loss of identity?

Loss of identity after having a baby means you have lost the sense of the person you were before the birth.

Your sense of identity comes from many things, including your relationships, friendships, nationality, culture and job. Having a baby can bring big changes to many of the things that make you who you are. For example, it can impact your relationships and financial independence.

It’s normal for parents to feel tired, worried or unhappy after their baby is born. But if you’re struggling to understand your thoughts and feelings, or if you’re finding it hard to get through each day, then it’s important to seek help.

What causes loss of identity after having a baby?

Having a baby brings great joy and feelings of love. But it can also mean the sudden loss of or changes to aspects of your life. New parents, especially mothers, may feel like they have lost their:

  • professional identity
  • ability to make money
  • social life
  • time for leisure activities
  • spontaneity
  • time with their partner and friends
  • time to be alone
  • confidence in how they look
  • freedom

These changes can happen as soon as the baby is born. Many parents feel unprepared or trapped due to the massive transformation that has overtaken their life.

Remember these feelings are completely normal. They don’t mean you don’t love your baby or that you aren’t doing a good job. It will just take some time to adjust.

What can I do about loss of identity after having a baby?

It takes time to get used to your new identity as a parent. Feeling valued and worthwhile in your new role will help you to feel better about it.

It’s important to have realistic expectations about parenting. Try not to compare yourself with other parents, especially in the media or on social media. Resist reading too much parenting information from untrustworthy or unreliable sources and trust yourself to look after the baby. Reliable information sources on parenting issues include the Raising Children Network.

Try to enjoy your baby, by cuddling and playing with them. Get showered and dressed, get out of the house and make contact with family or friends. Joining a parenting group or playgroup is a great way to meet new people who are at the same stage of life as you.

Make sure you look after your health by eating properly and exercising. Make time for yourself and ask for help so you can do this. And make sure you relax when you can, rather than trying to get the chores done.

Do I have postnatal depression or anxiety?

Adjusting to a new baby usually happens quite quickly and is not too distressing. But if your feelings about identity loss don’t go away and they’re affecting your life, it could be a sign of postnatal depression or anxiety.

If you think you may have postnatal depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor straight away. There is treatment available to help you.

Where to find help

To look after your baby, you also need to look after yourself. There are plenty of support services that can help, including:

  • your doctor
  • your local child health centre
  • Pregnancy Birth and Baby – call 1800 882 436 to speak to a maternal child health nurse (7:00am to midnight AEST, 7 days a week), or video call
  • PANDA – 1300 726 306 (9:00am to 7:30pm AEST, Mon to Fri)
  • Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2019


Back To Top

Need more information?

Anxiety and parenthood

Postnatal anxiety develops in the first year of parenthood and is common both in women and men.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Adjusting to parenthood

Adjusting to parenthood, postnatal anxiety and depression support

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

Adjusting to parenthood

Adjusting to parenthood, postnatal anxiety and depression support

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

Talking about mental health and parenthood

Mental health is something many new and expecting parents are afraid to discuss, but it’s important to be able to talk about it during pregnancy. Learn why here.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Anxiety.

Anxiety can be as equally as debilitating as depression but is often not recognised as a true illness, especially by parents themselves. New and expecting parents have often heard of postnatal depression, but are less aware of the risk of anxiety during pregnancy and early parenthood. Parents may delay seeking help, believing that because they are not feeling sad, the experience they are having must just be a normal part of parenthood.

Read more on Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness website

Anxiety & Depression in Pregnancy & Early Parenthood

If you are reading this, you may have concerns about your thoughts, feelings or behaviours, or those of your partner or someone close to you who is pregnant or recently had a baby.

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

What worries you about parenthood?

Infographic showing some of the results from the study by Healthdirect Australia. Aussie parents’ honest answers about their reality and worries, with the data revealing what many parents are concerned about during pregnancy and early parenthood.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Pregnancy and new parents

Check out our information for new and expectant parents, covering everything from bonding with your baby to spotting the signs of anxiety and depression.

Read more on Beyond Blue website

Pregnancy - Pregnancy Topics - Depression and anxiety during pregnancy

Pregnancy, birth and early parenthood are times of great change

Read more on Women's and Children's Health Network website

Loss and grief

Adjusting to parenthood, postnatal anxiety and depression support

Read more on Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.