Perinatal (postnatal) depression

Perinatal depression is a term used for depression during or after pregnancy. It is increasingly being used in preference to the term ‘postnatal depression’ which refers to when women become depressed after having a baby.

People sometimes say “I’m depressed” when they mean they are fed up about something. They usually quickly recover from these feelings. True, or clinical depression, refers to a condition where feelings of extreme sadness can last for a long time. This can be accompanied by physical effects such as loss of energy, or aches and pains.

The exact cause of perinatal depression is not known. Factors may include the big changes that having a baby brings about, concerns about being able to manage, or feelings of inadequacy arising from the fact that women do not automatically know how to be a mother. There may be an obvious reason but often there is none.

Mild perinatal depression can be helped by increased support from families and friends; more severe perinatal depression will need help from a GP, health visitor or, in some cases, mental health professionals.