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Perinatal Depression | MHW

Perinatal Depression

Many women experience the ‘baby blues’ between the third and tenth day after giving birth, due to changes in hormone levels following childbirth. You might feel tearful or overwhelmed, but this usually passes within a few days and without any specific care – apart from support and understanding.

All parents go through a period of adjustment as they try to handle the huge changes a new baby brings. Remember that you’re not the only ones trying to figure out how to collapse that new pram or settle a screaming baby – all new parents are in the same boat. Most people will go through a temporary adjustment as they learn the ropes and build confidence in their new role. But if you’re feeling distressed, down, sad or overwhelmed most of the time for two weeks or more, you may be experiencing depression.

Perinatal Depression Data from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey showed that one in five mothers of children aged 24 months or less had been diagnosed with depression.

More than half of these mothers reported that their diagnosed depression was perinatal (that is, the depression was diagnosed from pregnancy until the child’s first birthday). Further, of all the cases of diagnosed depression, just over one in five were diagnosed for the first time during the perinatal period of the infant selected for the survey [15].

The majority of mothers suffering from perinatal depression sought treatment from their general practitioner (GP) and support from family and friends. Perinatal depression was more commonly reported among mothers who:

• were younger (aged under 25)
• were smokers
• came from lower income households
• spoke English at home
• were overweight or obese
• had an emergency caesarean section.

Perinatal depression was less commonly reported among mothers who had higher levels of education (bachelor degree or higher), were working at the time of the survey, and primarily spoke a language other than English at home [15].

If you are feeling suicidal contact Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis support service on 13 11 14 or seek immediate help from a GP, psychiatrist or a psychologist.

Perinatal, antenatal and postnatal depression – what’s the difference?

You might hear some of these terms used and wonder what they mean. Antenatal depression is when you experience depression during pregnancy, and affects up to one in ten women in Australia. Up to one in six women experience postnatal depression, which develops between one month and up to one year after the birth.

Because depression can start before or during pregnancy and continue after childbirth, we often use perinatal depression to cover the whole period from conception until your baby is 12 months old.

Depression may also return in a following pregnancy or after the birth of another child.

If you are feeling suicidal contact Lifeline’s 24 hour crisis support service on 13 11 14 or seek immediate help from a GP, psychiatrist or a psychologist.