The experience of having a baby and becoming a parent can be exciting as well as very challenging. Perinatal mental health covers the period during pregnancy and the first year after birth. During this period, people may be vulnerable to mental health conditions like Anxiety, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, or postpartum psychosis.
How common is it?
Up to 1 in 10 women experience depression or anxiety in pregnancy. Many parents experience anxiety and depression together, while severe mental illness is much less common, with postpartum psychosis reported to in 1 in 1000 pregnancies.
Among fathers, studies have shown that between the early stage of their partners’ pregnancy to one year after the birth, 1 in 10 fathers report depression, and up to 1 in 5 fathers report anxiety.
Are there different types of Perinatal Disorder?
- Baby Blues is seen as a normal and common adjustment as pregnancy and postpartum hormones adjust, where new mothers experience a wide range of emotions, including sadness and irritability, during the first few weeks after the baby is born.
- Perinatal or postpartum depression can occur during pregnancy or after the birth of a baby. Sufferers can feel overwhelmed or unable to cope with their new role as a parent. This type of depression can have a severe impact on the mother-child relationship, and rouse intense feelings of sadness and guilt.
- Anxiety can cause extreme worries and fears in women, often over the health and safety of the baby.
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can be scary in new mothers as it can cause repetitive, upsetting and unwanted thoughts or mental images (obsessions). Sometimes they need to do certain things over and over (compulsions) to reduce the anxiety caused by those thoughts.
- Panic Disorder is a form of anxiety in which the sufferer feels very nervous and has recurring panic attacks which can lead to shortness of breath, chest pain, claustrophobia, dizziness, heart palpitations, and numbness and tingling in the extremities.
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often caused by a traumatic or frightening childbirth, and symptoms may include flashbacks of the trauma with feelings of anxiety and the need to avoid things related to that event.
- Peripartum (Postpartum) Psychosis is a rare mental health condition where the mother may be at risk of self-harm and there is risk of potential harm for her infant. Recognising symptoms and seeking urgent professional help is essential.