What Is Perinatal Depression?

Unfortunately, it is quite likely that you’ve heard more than once about postpartum depression, even if you haven’t had children. But what about prenatal depression, perinatal or peripartum depression? Are they the same thing?

Keep reading to find out about the meaning of this terminology related to perinatal depression.

Perinatal depression

Peri means ‘around’ and natal means ‘birth’. Perinatal, therefore, refers to the time ‘around birth’, which includes the experiences of pregnant and postpartum women.

Perinatal depression is a mental illness that affects women at any time during their pregnancy until a year after the baby’s birth.

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition) defines perinatal depression as a major depressive disorder with peri-partum onset.

What’s the difference between perinatal and postpartum depression?

Are perinatal and postpartum depression the same thing?

Yes and no. Perinatal depression is characterized as happening at any time from conception until the baby’s first birthday; postpartum depression happens after the baby is born. Postpartum depression is a type of perinatal depression; perinatal depression can happen at any time and doesn’t have to occur during the postpartum period.

Perinatal depression – causes

Research shows that the incidence of perinatal depression is significantly higher in low and middle-income countries. There’s very little data on low-income countries and this highlights the need for thorough epidemiological research in those areas. Women’s mental health should be a priority in all countries or, at least, in those with an independent mental health services administration.

Other causes of perinatal depression are:

  • Family history. If peripartum depression or any major depression has happened to family members, you’re at a higher risk of developing severe depression
  • Self history. Of course, if your mental health has suffered from depression in the past, the risk of you suffering from it again increases
  • Previous birth trauma. Your personal or family history is important when we are talking about any mood disorder. If you have suffered from any kind of birth trauma in a previous pregnancy, simply thinking about the possibility of something similar happening again can trigger severe mood swings that might lead to some form of perinatal depressionRead more in BellyBelly’s article Trauma Of Giving Birth | When No One Listens
  • Research shows that folate deficiency might lead to perinatal depression, poor birth outcomes and birth defects
  • Upsetting personal circumstances around the child’s birth. If you’re going through financial difficulties or are experiencing any stressful life events, it’s much more likely for you to develop perinatal depression or other mood disorders
  • Other mental disorders. If you have suffered from previous mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, anxiety or previous postpartum psychosis, you are at a higher risk of developing depression, whether it is pre or postnatal depression
  • Lack of support. If you are struggling with pregnancy or with a newborn and you feel you have no real physical or emotional support, you might struggle to cope with the present circumstances. A mental health professional can help you treat perinatal depression with interpersonal therapy and support groups.

Although we can never tell whether or not an individual woman is likely suffer from depression, healthcare providers might be able to prevent perinatal depression by doing thorough data collection and identifying risk factors.

Perinatal depression – symptoms

Prenatal and postnatal depression have many symptoms in common:

If reading this is leading you to feel more certain about your suspicions that a loved one is suffering from depression, go further. Talk to her, get in contact with your health care provider and start looking for help immediately.

She might be reluctant at first but don’t let that convince you she doesn’t need help. Most people who suffer from a mental disorder won’t be able to recognise it and will deny its existence.

Perinatal depression – treatment

Becoming a mother is a beautiful time of joy and happiness and it establishes the basis of a loving, life-lasting mother-child relationship; therefore, getting proper treatment is very important.

Untreated depression can lead to more severe disorders, such as baby postpartum psychosis.

Talk therapy and family therapy are really important for those who suffer from depression, because guilt and self-blame are common symptoms that accompany a depressive disorder. Being able to have a guided conversation about our feelings, with a professional, is key to a rapid recovery.

Psilocybin, the psychedelic substance present in magic mushrooms, is being used in depressive disorders and substance abuse problems, with very promising results.

There’s a lot of recent research highlighting the medicinal properties of psilocybin and its use to treat depression effectively.

If you take a more Western medical approach, this is considered a medical emergency and psychiatric medications might be suggested. Your health care provider will be able to point you in the right direction.

Find out more in these BellyBelly articles:

Postpartum Depression Symptoms | 9 Signs You Have PPD

Prenatal Depression

Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale | Take The Test.

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