Perinatal depression is depression experienced during pregnancy (known as ante or prenatal depression), or after childbirth (known as postnatal depression).
Many people are aware of postnatal depression (PND), but it's less commonly known that you can experience it during pregnancy as well.
What you need to know
Becoming a parent brings a wide range of emotions, ranging from joy to excitement to stress and apprehension. The physical changes you go through can also affect your mood and feelings, and it's common to experience more ups and downs than usual - check out common symptoms in the tips below. But depression is more than just a low mood - it's a serious condition that affects your physical and mental health. Untreated, it can affect not only you but also the people around you - your loved ones and even the baby's own development. Around 10-15% of new mothers will experience postnatal depression. It can range from being relatively mild to very severe but it is also a very treatable illness if you get the right help.
We know that talking about how you are feeling can often be very difficult, however, there is help out there. You do not have to feel like this. We hear that women often worry that they will be judged or seen as 'not coping', but health professionals are aware of how common depression can be during the perinatal period, and are able to support you and your family. There will be a range of treatment options open to you - Have a look in the 'Tip 4' section below.
Some of the symptoms to look for in ante and postnatal depression are listed below:
How you might feel:
- Sad and low
- Tearful for no apparent reason
- Hopeless about the future
- Unable to cope
- Irritable and angry
- Hostile or indifferent to your partner
- Hostile or indifferent to your baby
How you might behave:
- Lost concentration
- Have disturbed sleep
- Find it hard to sleep - even when you have the opportunity
- Have a reduced appetite
- Lack of interest in sex
- Have thoughts about death
Note: - some of these symptoms - like lack of concentration, disturbed sleep and lack of interest in sex - are all common after becoming a parent, but it's still important to mention them to your doctor if you're concerned you might have postnatal depression.
Need help right now?
- NHS 111
Want to talk to someone?
- Pandas (pre and postnatal depression advice and support) have a free helpline from 9am to 8pm every day available on 0808 1961 776
- Talking therapies are available free on the NHS - here is a link to find your local service.
Want to find support on social media, apps or online?
- Baby Buddy - an award winning app designed to look after you and your baby's physical and mental health. Click here for more information. You can download it for free online, from Google Play or the App Store.
- Mums Matter online information and support - this section of the website includes breathing techniques and meditations.
- Pandas offers online support and information as well as a helpline
Want to read more about it?
- Click here for an article on postnatal depression from the Royal College of Psychiatry
- For information and support on postnatal depression and perinatal mental health from MIND, click here.
- Want to talk to other women and families who have been through this? Click here to visit the Hampshire Lanterns website.
- Pandas provides support to people coping with pre and postnatal mental illness, as well as their families, friends and carers.
Medication such as antidepressants can be helpful for treating moderate to severe depression.
Content adapted from MIND.
There are lots of things that you can do to stay physically and emotionally healthy throughout your pregnancy and postnatally. Exercise, eating well and stopping smoking and alcohol can all help. Take a look at the emotional well being page here for more ideas.
- Talking therapies are available free on the NHS - here is a link to find your local service
- Please check out the resources below to find helpful information that works for you.
If you experience any of the following symptoms (known as "Red Flag symptoms"):
- New thoughts of violent self-harm
- Sudden onset or rapidly worsening symptoms
- Persistent feelings of estrangement from your baby
Then you need urgent referral to a specialist perinatal mental health team.
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