Perinatal refers to the time from pregnancy to a year after childbirth. Antenatal refers the period during pregnancy. Postnatal, or postpartum, refers to the first year after birth.
Some women may be at risk of becoming unwell during pregnancy or after giving birth. There is a higher risk if they felt stressed recently or had mental health problems in the past.
One in five Australian women will have some sort of mental health issue during the perinatal period.
It is normal for women who have given birth to feel out of sorts while adjusting to the changes a new baby brings.
The baby blues usually occurs between three to 10 days after the baby’s birth, due to hormonal changes, lack of sleep and other factors.
If these symptoms last longer than two weeks after birth, they may be sign of an emerging mental health condition.
Anxiety disorders during the perinatal period includes:
Perinatal anxiety occurs in up to 20 per cent of women. It is common to have both anxiety and depression at the same time.
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Depression affects up to 10 per cent of women during pregnancy, and up to 16 per cent after the birth up to the first year.
Around 10 per cent of fathers are affected by depression, and up to 20 per cent for anxiety.
Some women experience birth or pregnancy as traumatic, especially those with a history of childhood sexual abuse.
A disorder characterised by episodes of mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. The manic episodes can include high energy, less need for sleep and a loss of reality. Depressive episodes can include low mood and energy. Episodes can last days to months.
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biploar disorder and pregnancy.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that centres on the inability to manage emotions and impulses. Having BPD makes it hard for a person to feel comfortable with themselves and relating to other people.
Postnatal psychosis, also known as puerperal or postpartum psychosis, is an illness that can put both mother and baby at risk. It can
People with bipolar disorder or a prior postnatal psychosis have a very high risk of postnatal psychosis.
The onset of symptoms is sudden and can include:
These conditions can range from mild to moderate or severe. Some severe or acute conditions require hospital care.
Severe mental illness is much less common than depressive and anxiety disorders. Hospital care at an inpatient mental health unit or mother-baby unit is often required.
A mother with severe and acute mental health conditions can negatively impact the baby’s emotional and behavioural growth.
An urgent mental health assessment is needed if there is:
To get a mental health assessment, call the
Mental Health Line on
1800 011 511.
If there is an immediate risk of harm to themselves, the baby or you, call
Triple Zero (000) now or go to a
hospital emergency department.
Read more about how to get free advice and services from the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Services on
Where to get help and support.
For more information about perinatal mental health, refer to:
Transcript: Holding it all together
Although this resource is aimed at dads, the information is helpful for all new parents and carers regardless of gender, who are coping with perinatal mental illness.