What is perinatal depression?
Many women experience mood swings after the birth of a baby. However, perinatal depression (post natal depression, PND) describes the more severe or prolonged symptoms of depression (clinical depression) that last more than a week or two and interfere with the ability to function on a daily basis including caring for a baby.
It is important to note that PND is different from the baby blues that are common during the first week after childbirth.
Perinatal Depression symptoms
Symptoms of anxiety and depression that start during pregnancy or the postnatal period are similar to those that occur at any other time in a woman’s life, but the focus of the fears and depressive concerns can be the wellbeing of the baby, or feelings of inadequacy as a parent.
Symptoms may include:
- loss of enjoyment in usual pursuits
- loss of self-esteem and confidence
- loss of appetite and weight
- broken sleep (irrespective of baby)
- sense of hopelessness and being a failure
- a wish not to be alive
- frank suicidal thoughts or ideas
- panic attacks
- loss of libido
- fears for baby’s or partner’s safety or wellbeing.
Men also experience the pregnancy of their partners and the birth of a new baby as a stressful time period filled with new challenges and adjustment to new routines. These can lead to anxiety and depression for men in just the same way as for some women.
Perinatal Depression causes
Anxiety often goes hand-in-hand with depression during pregnancy and the postnatal period. Worrying thoughts around the progress of the pregnancy or one’s own health or the health of the baby are normal and usually settle with reassurance.
However some women show symptoms that are more clearly due to an anxiety disorder rather than to depression and treatment needs to take this into account.
Women who have had previous pregnancy, labour or delivery complications, miscarriages, or experienced the death of a baby are more likely to show increased levels of anxiety during subsequent pregnancies. A history of a phobia, generalised anxiety disorder, or obsessive compulsive disorder increases the risk of anxiety symptoms in pregnancy and after the birth, and professional help is often required to treat the more severe forms of anxiety.
Treatment for perinatal depression
Perinatal depression can be treated using a number of methods however to determine which treatment is best suited, Kathryn will ask questions about the individual’s history, circumstances, thoughts, feelings and behaviours to gain an understanding of factors that might be contributing to the person’s difficulties and work out a treatment best suited to the client.
Further Reading & Support
Australian Psychological Society
Australia’s largest professional association for psychologists
Provides information on anxiety, depression, and related disorders
Black Dog Institute
An organisation specialising in mood disorder research and education
PANDA Perinatal Depression Helpline
1300 726 306 (Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm AEST)
The telephone information, support and referral service is staffed by trained volunteers, professional counsellors and supervising staff. Most of the volunteers on the helpline have experienced perinatal depression and anxiety. The helpline provides confidential information, support and referral to anyone affected by depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after childbirth, including partners, family members and friends.
1300 78 99 78
A national 24-hour telephone helpline service for men who are dealing with family and relationship difficulties.
provides a great deal of information, a self-assessment for new dads to complete to determine whether they might have depression, and an online forum
Real Men. Real Depression.
US National Institute of Mental Health – a site devoted to men and depression
Pillars of Strength
An organisation that fills a gap in the men’s health and mental health sector by providing respite and support for men going through significant family trauma, including grieving through neo-natal loss.