Postnatal Depression

and Perinatal Mental Health

About Maternal Mental Health Problems

Having a baby is a big life event, and it’s natural to experience a range of emotions and reactions during and after your pregnancy. But if they start to have a big impact on how you live your life, you might be experiencing a mental health problem.

Around one in five women will experience a mental health problem during pregnancy or in the year after giving birth. This might be a new mental health problem or another episode of a mental health problem you’ve experienced before. These are known as perinatal mental health problems.

What Does 'Perinatal' Mean?

‘Perinatal’ means the period of time covering your pregnancy and up to roughly a year after giving birth. It’s made up of two parts:

  • peri meaning ‘around’
  • natal meaning ‘birth’

You might have also heard terms used to describe the time specifically before or after giving birth, such as:

  • postnatal or postpartum meaning ‘after birth’
  • antenatal or prenatal meaning ‘before birth’

There’s no right or wrong word to describe the period of time around pregnancy and after birth, and you might hear your doctor or midwife use any of these.

''It took a lot of courage to tell my midwife that I was experiencing suicidal thoughts and had sought help from my GP''
Will I Hurt My Baby?

If you experience thoughts about death or harming yourself or the baby, this can be very frightening, and may make you feel as if you are going mad or completely out of control. You may be afraid to tell anyone about these feelings.

But it’s important to realise that having these thoughts doesn’t mean that you are actually going to harm yourself or your children. However difficult it is, the more you can bring these feelings out into the open and talk about them, whether to a family member, a friend or a health professional, the sooner you can get support.

What Kind of Perinatal Mental Health Problems Are There?

You can experience any kind of mental health problems during and after pregnancy, but there are some that are particularly common or are specifically linked to pregnancy and childbirth. This booklet covers:

  • perinatal depression
  • perinatal anxiety
  • perinatal OCD
  • postpartum psychosis
  • postpartum PTSD

Some women also experience eating problems around pregnancy. See Mind’s resources on eating problems for general information, and Tommy’s has specific information about eating disorders in pregnancy

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