‘Perinatal’ refers to both the antenatal (pregnancy) and postnatal (after birth) periods. Pregnancy, birth, and postpartum are times of massive life transition which can involve mixed feelings, including feeling up and down. It’s common in the first couple of weeks after giving birth to experience the baby blues- feeling sad and teary; this tends to be transient and in response to events.
If you are feeling miserable, flat, or lacking interest or enjoyment in things most of the time, you might be experiencing depression. 1 in 10 women will experience antenatal depression, and 1 in 7 women will develop postnatal depression. There are a number of risk factors for this, including being a younger age (under 25 years), smoking, financial difficulties, being overweight, a difficult or unplanned pregnancy, a difficult birth, being single or having a difficult relationship. Other risk factors include poor nutrition (which depletes body reserves of nutrients during pregnancy), lacking social support, stressful life events, a history of anxiety or depression, family violence, past pregnancy loss, fertility issues in the past.
If you seem to be plagued by worry, nervousness, or apprehension during or after pregnancy, you might be experiencing anxiety. Perinatal anxiety is more common than perinatal depression, with up to 39% of women experiencing anxiety in this period. Risk factors for perinatal anxiety include financial difficulties, a prior mental health history, a difficult pregnancy or birth, and a poor relationship with their partner.
1in 3 women will experience birth trauma, which creates a rocky start to life with baby. Managing the impact or recovery from physical or emotional injury whilst getting to know a little person and adjust to the demands can feel overwhelming, and sometimes the bond isn’t felt straightaway. Additionally, some women go on to develop Postpartum Post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of their birth trauma.
Women can also experience other challenges in the perinatal period, including postpartum rage, insomnia, intrusive thoughts of bad things happening to their babies, nightmares of bad things happening to their babies, dysphoric milk ejection reflex… and so much more. Obtaining expert and warm support in this period can make all the difference.