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What Is Perinatal Depression And Anxiety?

What Is Perinatal Depression And Anxiety?

Parenthood can be a wonderful and special time, but it also has its challenges

Pregnancy and the first year of parenthood (the perinatal period) can be a uniquely special time. It is also a time of great adjustment and the impact is often underestimated in our society. All expectant and new parents will have their good days and bad days, their ups and downs. But when bad days start to seriously outnumber the good they may be at risk of perinatal anxiety and depression.

Perinatal depression and anxiety affects 1 in 5 mothers and 1 in 10 fathers. Men are not immune from perinatal depression and anxiety. Commonly, but certainly not always, this develops as reactive depression to a partner’s illness – it’s understandably difficult to be around a person who is ‘down’ all the time. In fact, if the mother is depressed the whole family is affected: partner, baby and other children. That’s why it’s essential to get help straight away.

This term perinatal covers both antenatal depression and anxiety (occurring during pregnancy) and postnatal depression and anxiety.  

Perinatal depression and anxiety is a diagnosable condition and needs to be considered when:

  • A parent is experiencing strong emotions which are impacting negatively on their ability to function in their usual way,
  • Low moods that have lasted for two weeks or more,
  • It is accompanied by a lack of enjoyment or pleasure in life and an inability to plan for the future.

Perinatal depression and anxiety affects almost 100,000 expectant and new parents in Australia each year. It is a recognised and diagnosable medical condition, the result of biological, psychological and social factors. Mothers and fathers do benefit from receiving professional help and parents do recover. Early intervention and emotional support enables parents to move on to enjoy this time with their children.    

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