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Perinatal Mental Health

Perinatal mental health relates to the mental wellbeing of women, their children and family, from the beginning of pregnancy to the first year after the baby is born. 


Perinatal mental illness is a complication of pregnancy and the postpartum period, and it affects at least 10% (1 in 10) of new mothers and symptoms can range from mild to severe.


Perinatal depression and anxiety are common, with prevalence rates for severe depression up to almost 20% (20 in 1000 deliveries), but much higher for mild to moderate cases. Baby blues are more common but a less severe manifestation of postpartum mood disturbance. 

Risk factors include past history of depression or anxiety, as well psychosocial factors, such as ongoing conflict with the partner, poor social support, and ongoing stressful life events.


Puerperal (post partum) psychosis is a less frequent perinatal mental illness, affecting around 2 % (2 in 1000 deliveries) of women, but a more severe mental illness and therefore quick identification and treatment is paramount. It is also important to mention that the risk of developing it increases greatly if there is a personal history of Bipolar Affective Disorder, Schizoaffective Disorder, Psychotic Depression, or previous Postpartum Psychosis, when the risk increases to over 50%. Also if there is a first degree relative, like mother or sister, with Bipolar Affective Disorder or if they suffered from puerperal psychosis, the risk is also greater, about 3%.


If left untreated these illnesses can impair functioning and are affect the development of children, namely increase the likelihood that they will experience behavioural, social or learning difficulties, develop depression later in life and fail to achieve their full potential in adulthood. 


If you are pregnant or just had a baby and you, your partner or family are worried or concerns about your mental health you should seek help and advice without delay.  A quick diagnosis and effective management are critical for a better outcome for you, your family and your children.


The treatment of psychiatric illness in the perinatal period, are based on both psychological therapies as well as medication. The right management will be based on symptoms, severity and risks to yourself and your child.


There are medications that are known for not carrying increase risks to the unborn baby or baby breastfeeding and a discussion of risks and benefits is essential. If you regularly take medications for psychiatric problems then ideally this discussion should happen before your get pregnant as some medications are contra-indicated in pregnancy and should be changed for other with less risk.   


  • Are you planning to get pregnant and taking psychiatric medication?

  • Are you concerned about how your mental health may influence your pregnancy?

  • Have you become anxious, increasingly worried or low in mood since being pregnant?

  • Have you just had a baby and are feeling overwhelmed, anxious or low, like you are not coping?

  • Are you feeling or worried that you may not be a good mother or experiencing strange thoughts or unusual feelings toward or about your new baby?


    Contact me to start your path to recovery.


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