Background Only some women with recurrent major depressive disorder experience postnatal episodes. Personality and/or cognitive styles might increase the likelihood of experiencing postnatal depression. Aims To establish whether personality and cognitive style predicts vulnerability to postnatal episodes over and above their known relationship to depression in general. Method We compared personality and cognitive style in women with recurrent major depressive disorder who had experienced one or more postnatal episodes (postnatal depression (PND) group, n=143) with healthy female controls (control group, n=173). We also examined parous women with recurrent major depressive disorder who experienced no perinatal episodes (non-postnatal depression (NPND) group, n=131). Results The PND group had higher levels of neuroticism and dysfunctional beliefs, and lower self-esteem than the control group, However, there were no significant differences between the PIND and NPND groups. Conclusions Established personality and cognitive vulnerabilities for depression were reported by women with a history of postnatal depression, but there was no evidence that any of these traits or styles confer a specific risk for the postnatal onset of episodes. Declaration of interest None.