Perinatal depression

Perinatal depression is the name given to depression that develops from conception up until the baby is 12 months of age. This term covers antenatal depression (one in ten women) occurring during pregnancy and postnatal depression occurring after delivery (one in six women).

Although many people associate postnatal depression with mothers, up to one in 10 new dads can experience depression during the pregnancy or after the birth.

Symptoms of perinatal depression include:

  • having a very low mood
  • feeling inadequate and a failure as a mother
  • having a sense of hopelessness about the future
  • feeling exhausted, empty, sad and teary
  • feeling guilty, ashamed or worthless
  • feeling anxious or panicky
  • having trouble sleeping, sleeping for too long or having nightmares
  • worrying excessively about their baby
  • feeling scared of being alone or going out.

Symptoms for men are often similar, but can also include:

  • tiredness, headaches and pain
  • irritability, anxiety and anger
  • loss of libido
  • changes in appetite
  • feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control and unable to cope
  • a tendency to take risks
  • changes to sleep patterns, especially a lack of sleep
  • feelings of isolation and disconnection from partner, friends or family
  • increased hours of work as a part of the withdrawal from family
  • increased use of drugs or alcohol instead of seeking treatment for depression.

There are a number of different treatments for postnatal depression, such as counselling, psychotherapy, group treatment, support strategies and medications (such as antidepressants). Support from family and friends is also important.

If you think that you or your partner may have postnatal depression and have been experiencing symptoms for two or more weeks, you should speak to your doctor.

Resources

Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) helpline – 1300 726 306
beyondblue helpline – 1300 224 636
Pregnancy, Birth and Baby helpline – 1800 882 436
Fathers and depression
Mental health checklist for mums
Postnatal depression
Postnatal depression
Depression during pregnancy
How is dad going?
Postnatal psychosis

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