What if I drop the baby? Would my baby be better off without me? What if I drive off the road with the baby?

These thoughts are not what most of us associate with early motherhood, but for many new mums, they are a reality. They are called “intrusive thoughts” or scary thoughts. ideas that feel like they are invading your brain. Intrusive thoughts are a common symptom of postnatal depression and anxiety. Over half of all new mothers report having them.

What are postnatal intrusive thoughts?

Intrusive thoughts are images and voices that seem to come out of nowhere. They feel foreign, out of character, and can be very stressful. For new mums, scary thoughts often include accidentally—or intentionally—harming the baby. For example, some mothers report bathing their baby and suddenly thinking, What if I just walked away for a minute? Or even, What would happen if I put her head under the water?

And the more they try to not think about it, the harder it is to push the thought away.

Why do intrusive thoughts happen?

Mums are obviously horrified when they have scary thoughts. You just spent an entire pregnancy dreaming of motherhood and meeting your baby. You love them more than anything on the planet. So, it is very disturbing to suddenly think about your baby being hurt—especially if in your thoughts, you are the one hurting them.

Most new moms who experience intrusive thoughts have never had them before. Scary thoughts can plow through the mind and pop up at the worst moments. Mums sometimes even feel like they are “going crazy” and do not reach out for help because they are feeling terribly guilty and embarrassed…and even worry that their baby might be taken away from them.

Let us make one thing very clear: Having intrusive thoughts does not make you a bad—or crazy—mum. However, what it does mean is that you are having a common symptom of postnatal depression or anxiety. And the fact that you are horrified by these thoughts is exactly what marks them as what they are: intrusive thoughts, not actual desires.

What can I do about postnatal scary thoughts?

Although revealing your scary thoughts to your partner or friends can be 100% daunting, it is important to take that step. If you are not ready for that, start by reading about other mothers who have experienced scary thoughts. We particularly loved this article and this one. You can also consider reading books like Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts and Dropping the Baby and Other Scary Thoughts: Breaking the Cycle of Unwanted Thoughts in Motherhood.

When you are ready, tell someone you trust about your thoughts. You can even share books or articles you have read with them to give them a deeper understanding—and to solicit support.

Or, you can call your OB-GYN and schedule an appointment to discuss it with an expert. If you prefer, you can discuss it with your partner and then visit a healthcare provider. A professional may help you understand what is happening and how to help yourself return to a normal balance.

Either way, know this: you are not alone. Many mothers experience intrusive thoughts during the postpartum period. It is scary and it is lonely and it is terrible but there is help out there. All you have to do is take the first step.


If you are having thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby and find yourself feeling relieved instead of scared or distressed, call the Association for Post Natal Illness' helpline at 020 7386 0868 (10am to 2pm, Monday to Friday) or 999 and 112 for the national emergency response service in the UK.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider. Breastmilk is the best source of nutrition for babies. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, mothers eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast- and bottle-feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of a mother's breastmilk and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. If you do decide to use infant formula, you should follow instructions carefully.