Perinatal Mental Health

Perinatal Mental Health

Perinatal refers to the time from pregnancy to a year after childbirth.

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 example , there is a higher risk if they felt stressed during the pregnancy 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. 

The 'baby blues'

It is normal for women who have given birth to feel “not themselves” while adjusting to the changes a new baby brings. Example tiredness, not confident in parenting skills.

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. 

Newborn baby feet wrapped in a towel

SYMPTOMS OF THE BABY BLUES

  • feeling weepy or crying over seemingly minor things
  • having mood swings or being especially irritable
  • feeling unattached or unbonded to your baby
  • missing parts of your old life, like the freedom to go out with friends
  • worrying or feeling anxious about your baby’s health and safety
  • feeling restless or experiencing insomnia, even though you’re exhausted
  • having trouble making easy decisions or thinking clearly
  • Symptoms disappear within a few days without the need for treatment other than rest and support.

If these symptoms last longer than two weeks after birth, they may be sign of an emerging mental health condition.

POSTNATAL DEPRESSION OR POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION 

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 (NSW Health 2020).

SYMPTOMS OF PERINATAL DEPRESSION

  • depressed mood or irritability.
  • diminished interest or enjoyment in activities.
  • significant weight or appetite change.
  • sleeping problems.
  • fatigue, tiredness.
  • feelings of worthlessness or guilt.
  • inability to think clearly or concentrate.
  • recurrent thoughts of death or suicide or both.

ANXIETY DISORDERS DURING THE PERINATAL PERIOD INCLUDE:

  • generalised anxiety disorder.
  • obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • panic disorder and,
  • social phobia.

Perinatal anxiety occurs in up to 20 per cent of women. It is common to have both anxiety and depression at the same time.

SYMPTOMS OF PERINATAL ANXIETY 

  • feeling restless, keyed up, on edge, panicky.
  • worried about things not in your control.
  • easily fatigued.
  • difficulty concentrating.
  • irritability.
  • fearful.
  • muscle tension.
  • sleep disturbance.
  • panic attacks.
  • avoidance behaviours, for example, towards baby or social interactions. 


Postnatal or Postpartum psychosis

Postnatal psychosis, also known as puerperal or postpartum psychosis, is an illness that can put both mother and baby at risk. It can

  • occur after childbirth and requires urgent psychiatric care
  • be related to an underlying mental health disorder, for example bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

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:

  • delusional beliefs
  • disorganised thinking and confusion
  • rapid mood changes or irritability
  • hallucinations.

CARING FOR YOUR PARTNER WITH A PERINATAL ILLNESS

You can help support your partner by:

  • helping the mental health care professional get a fuller picture of their wellbeing and situation.
  • taking part in their therapeutic programs or care plans.
  • coming to any meetings or help out if they are staying in a mother-baby mental health unit.
  • asking if they would like you to come along to any appointments..

 

Being a mom is a beautiful thing

Motherhood is a journey that makes every day special in its own way, but it’s also one of the most difficult things women go through. That is why taking care of ourselves from the inside out is so important.

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