What is Perinatal Depression?
Pregnancy is an exciting time in a woman’s life. Being pregnant allows you to share the love you have with someone else. It is a time filled with hope, anticipation and high expectations, as a new life is about to enter the world.
Unfortunately, the opportunity for positives is equaled by the opportunity for negatives, as pregnancy brings a wide array of physical, psychological, social and financial stressors.
Most woman will balance these negatives without much stress or change in functioning. The remainder, about 10 to 20 percent of women, will experience clinically relevant symptoms of depression and anxiety during the course of their pregnancy. Professionals call this prenatal depression.
Additionally, about 15 to 20 percent of women will experience symptoms of depression following the birth of their child. The onset of symptoms can occur immediately following birth or can be delayed for a number of months. The symptoms range from mild mood issues to more severe symptoms. Professionals refer to this as postpartum depression.
Perinatal depression is a more encompassing term that refers to any pregnancy-related depression. Any prenatal or postpartum depression is included in perinatal depression. As with other mental health concerns, the range of symptoms is wide. Because of this, working to gain information to prevent, predict and prepare for the influence perinatal depression will leave you more resilient.
Baby Blues and Perinatal Depression
Mental health issues are always challenging to diagnose. There is no fool-proof blood test, MRI or self-report questionnaire to identify symptoms in someone with certainty.
A major issue with this is the notion that most woman will experience some level of change triggered by pregnancy and delivery. Studies report that up to 80 percent of woman will experience “the baby blues.” Differentiating between this and perinatal depression is necessary.
Symptoms of baby blues include:
- Moodiness – Happy one minute and crying the next, irritability and frustration with self and others
- Feeling overwhelmed – Thinking that pregnancy was a mistake or too much to handle
- Anxiety – Nervousness, worry and racing thoughts
- Sleep issues – Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or wanting to sleep too much
- Sadness – Different than moodiness, this is an occasional feeling that results in crying and being weepy
These symptoms are surely problematic for the woman experiencing them, but they may not meet criteria for a depressive disorder.