What is perinatal mental health?

What is Perinatal Mental Health?

The term “perinatal,” refers to the period from conception up until one year postnatal. However, my own opinion is that the postnatal period is ongoing, it doesn't just magically stop when your baby turns one.

During the perinatal period, and even afterwards, birthing people and their partners are vulnerable to experiencing mental ill health, partly because pregnancy can be a worrying time but also because of the many changes that occur physically, emotionally, and practically.

Will the baby be ok at the scans? How will the labour be? How will we cope as a family? These are typical worries many experience during pregnancy. After birth, worries then tend to focus on the baby. What if my baby stops breathing? Are they feeding enough? Am I interacting with them properly?

What Mental Health Problems Can Occur In The Perinatal Period?

During an already exhausting time, these anxieties can really take their toll and can cause low mood. We all hear about postnatal depression, but problems can also be around anxiety too. It has been found that the perinatal period is the time that we are most vulnerable to the development of anxiety and/or mood disorders than any other time in our lives.

The anxiety disorders that typically occur during this time are: Generalised Anxiety, Health Anxiety, Perinatal OCD, Social Anxiety, Specific Phobias (for example needle phobia), and Perinatal Trauma. If one parent experiences Postnatal Depression, the other parent is up to 50% more likely to develop it themselves. Experiencing a mental health difficulty can be extremely impactful on your life and relationships.

Can Mental Health Problems Happen To Anyone?

Those who have a pre-existing mental health condition are at higher risk of their condition deteriorating. However, those who do not have a history of mental health problems can also experience perinatal mental illness.

We know that both mums and their partners can experience perinatal mental illness. Did you know a partner watching their wife during a traumatic birth can experience PTSD as a result? Or a mum who has always been a worrier can develop maternal OCD after the birth of their child?

It is not meant to sound all doom and gloom because having a new baby is wonderful and exciting too. But we need to raise awareness that mental ill health can present itself at this time. The more prepared we are with facts and knowledge, the better we are at recognising the signs if things become too difficult.

The important thing to remember is there is hope that things can improve, and recovery is entirely possible with the right support and treatment. If you want to hear more about how to spot the signs and symptoms of the common perinatal mental health difficulties mentioned above, why not book your place on my antenatal class for your mental health? 

If you want to keep up to date with my more frequent content, come and follow me on Instagram where I post about all things therapy, perinatal mental health and parenthood.

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