Four Perinatal Disorders and When to Seek Help

Post natal depression, perinatal anxiety

When talking about health problems during pregnancy most people are able to identify physical symptoms with recognition of mental health problems being quite low. Did you know that 1 in 5 women in Australia suffer from postnatal depression with more than half of these experiencing depression during the prenatal period?

Did you also know men can suffer postnatal depression with 1 in 10 men experiencing depression during the pregnancy or after the baby is born?

What are Perinatal Disorders?

Before we go any further let me talk about what perinatal disorders mean. Perinatal is the period from when the pregnancy begins until the newborn is one year of age. A term that is familiar to a lot of people is the “baby blues”.

  1. Baby blues is normal for a mother to experience as the pregnancy and postpartum hormones adjust. Symptoms can include a wide range of emotions, including sadness and irritability lasting between one to five days only.


  1. Postnatal depression is the most well-known of all the perinatal disorders. This can involve feeling continually exhausted, always tired yet unable to sleep, low in mood, overeating or having no appetite, and feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Symptoms will generally last longer than two weeks and cause a significant amount of distress.


  1. Perinatal anxiety is the second most common of all the perinatal disorders. This involves experiencing continual worry and fear often about the health and safety of your baby. This is accompanied by feeling tense, uptight, and restless.


  1. Peripartum psychosis is a rare perinatal disorder that begins suddenly in the first two weeks of childbirth. Symptoms include high mood and racing thoughts (mania), depression, severe confusion, loss of inhibition, paranoia, hallucinations and delusions.

Other disorders that can be experienced during the perinatal phase include Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, and Bipolar Disorder. In fact, for women with a family history of Bipolar Disorder, giving birth and the ongoing disruption of circadian rhythms through sleepless nights is a significant risk factor to trigger a first episode of Mania marking the onset of Bipolar Disorder.

That’s a lot you can experience, isn’t it!

Being a new mum is hard!

People seem to perceive that knowing how to look after a baby comes naturally. All the glowing pictures in the media and social media help to maintain this. However, pregnancy is a powerful and life changing experience that affects both the mother and their partner. Following is a list of signs of when it is a good time to seek help from your doctors and a perinatal mental health practitioner:

Signs of When to Seek Help for Perinatal Disorders

  • Feeling sad most days and not able to experience joy
  • Frequent crying
  • Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
  • Wanting to withdraw and curl up in a ball
  • Struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation
  • Feeling guilty and like a “bad Mum”
  • Feeling snappy, intolerant and irritable
  • Not sleeping when you should be able to sleep
  • Feeling disconnected from others, your life, and maybe even yourself
  • Increased fighting with your partner

If this is you, you’re not alone and help is available.

Support for Perinatal Disorders

It is really important to speak to someone and seek support if you are feeling this way. Talk to your partner, family and friends. Let them know how you are feeling. It is also important to talk to a professional.

The first step is to speak to your GP. Ask for a referral to a psychologist experienced in treating perinatal disorders.

Seeing a psychologist does not mean you are going crazy or a bad mother/father. A psychologist can support you to overcome these thoughts and feelings, helping you to feel better and navigate this challenging time.

Here at CBT Professionals, we have experienced psychologists in treating Perinatal Disorders. If you would like to consult a CBT Professionals psychologist, download our Psychology Referral Fact Sheet and take it with you to your extended consultation with your GP. The Fact Sheet has all the information on the referral pathways that may be accessible to you.

Disclaimer: Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only and is not intended to replace advise from your doctor or registered health professional. Readers are urged to consult their registered practitioner for diagnosis and treatment for their medical concerns.

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