What Does Perinatal Mental Health Mean?
When we’re talking about perinatal mental health, we’re referring to the mental health and well-being of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. This includes the period before birth (antenatal), during birth, and up to one year after the birth (postpartum or postnatal).
During this time, women may experience a range of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and postpartum psychosis. These conditions can occur due to various factors such as hormonal changes, physical and emotional stress, and lifestyle changes that come with having a baby.
Perinatal mental health is essential for both the mother and the baby’s well-being. Mental health problems can affect the mother’s ability to care for herself and her baby, as well as the baby’s development and health outcomes.
Are Mental Health Issues Throughout Pregnancy Normal?
Mental health issues are relatively common during pregnancy in Australia. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), an estimated 15.5% of women who gave birth in Australia in 2017-2018 reported experiencing high or very high levels of psychological distress in the previous four weeks.
Furthermore, perinatal depression is estimated to affect around 10% of women in Australia during pregnancy, while postpartum depression affects around 16% of women in the first three months after giving birth. Anxiety disorders are also common during pregnancy, with around 15% of women experiencing some form of anxiety during this time.
Postpartum or Postnatal Depression
Postpartum depression is similar to other forms of depression, but the timing of its onset, typically within the first four weeks after giving birth, and its association with childbirth make it a unique condition. Symptoms can include feelings of sadness, hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, and fatigue, as well as changes in appetite, sleep disturbances, and difficulty bonding with the baby. In severe cases, women may experience thoughts of harming themselves or their baby.
The causes of postpartum depression are not fully understood but are likely to be complex and multifactorial. Hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, and the stress of adjusting to motherhood are thought to play a role. Women who have a history of depression or other mental health issues, as well as those who experience significant life stressors such as relationship problems or financial difficulties, may be at higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
Postpartum or postnatal depression is relatively common in Australia, affecting around 10-15% of women in the first year after giving birth, according to estimates. This means that tens of thousands of Australian women experience postpartum depression each year
Types of Perinatal Mental Health Conditions
This is a type of depression that occurs during pregnancy or in the first year after giving birth. Symptoms may include sadness, low mood, loss of interest or pleasure, fatigue, sleep disturbances, and changes in appetite.
Anxiety disorders, including generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), are common during pregnancy. Symptoms may include excessive worry, fear, restlessness, irritability, and physical symptoms such as heart palpitations or sweating.
Some women may develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) following a traumatic birth experience or other traumatic event during pregnancy or childbirth. Symptoms may include intrusive memories or flashbacks, avoidance of triggers related to the trauma, hyper-vigilance, and nightmares.
Perinatal bipolar disorder
Women with bipolar disorder may experience mood episodes during pregnancy or after giving birth. These can include manic or hypomanic episodes, depressive episodes, or mixed episodes with symptoms of both mania and depression.
Postpartum psychosis is a rare but severe form of mental illness that can occur in the first few weeks after giving birth. Symptoms may include delusions, hallucinations, disorganised thinking, and mood disturbances
PLEASE NOTE: We do not offer bulk billing.
Before you book your appointment to see a psychologist, it is important to consider the costs involved. This will help you to weigh your options and make the right decision for you and your health. Patients with a referral/mental health care plan from a GP will be eligible to claim a rebate from Medicare. We accept direct deposit or credit card/debit cards.
To suit your individual needs and preferences, sessions with a psychologist can be spaced weekly, fortnightly, or monthly.
For more information about costs, inquire at Pynk Health.
Perinatal Mental Health Support
Perinatal mental health issues can be challenging to manage, but there are various treatment options available to women experiencing these conditions. Treatment for perinatal mental health issues can depend on the severity and type of the condition, as well as individual circumstances and preferences.
Psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy, involves talking with a mental health professional about the challenges and emotions related to perinatal mental health issues. Different types of therapy may be used depending on the individual’s needs, including cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), and mindfulness-based therapies.
Certain medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications, may be used to help manage symptoms of perinatal mental health issues. It’s important to work with a healthcare provider who is experienced in prescribing medications during pregnancy and breastfeeding, as some medications may pose risks to the developing fetus or nursing baby.
Making certain lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques, and eating a healthy diet, can help improve mood and manage symptoms of perinatal mental health issues.
Support groups can provide emotional support and a sense of community for women experiencing perinatal mental health issues. They may be led by mental health professionals or peer-led. In severe cases, hospitalisation may be necessary to ensure the safety of the mother and the baby. This may involve a stay in a psychiatric hospital or a specialised perinatal mental health unit.
Early intervention and treatment can improve outcomes for both the mother and the baby. Healthcare providers who specialise in perinatal mental health can work with women to develop a personalised treatment plan that takes into account their unique circumstances and preferences. By addressing perinatal mental health issues, women can better cope with the challenges of pregnancy and motherhood and improve outcomes for themselves and their babies.