What is Perinatal Depression?

What is Perinatal Depression

Perinatal depression (PND) is a mental health condition that can affect women after birth.  The condition was previously referred to as postnatal depression, but it is recognised that symptoms of depression can also arise during pregnancy. The perinatal period refers to the time during pregnancy (antepartum) and also after birth (the postpartum).  Perinatal depression varies in severity, from mild to severe.  It is a treatable condition, and with the right support and treatment women can adjust and recover.     


It is estimated that up to 1 in 10 women will experience PND in the first year after childbirth. Fathers and partners can also experience perinatal depression. 

PND is different from the “baby blues” that many women experience after giving birth. The baby blues are a response to significant hormonal changes after birth.  The woman may feel a range of emotions, including anxious, sad and restlessness.  The blues typically subside within a few days or weeks and are not a major cause for concern. PND, on the other hand, is a more serious condition that can last for weeks, months, or even years if it is not treated. The onset of PND is typically within 4-8 weeks after birth.


PND is characterised by a number of the following symptoms:

  • Feeling sad or having a depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Changes in appetite
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increase in purposeless physical activity (e.g., difficulty sitting still, pacing, handwringing) or slowed movements or speech (able to be observed by others)
  • Feeling worthless or guilty
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Crying for “no reason”
  • Lack of interest in the baby, not feeling connected to the baby, or feeling very anxious about/around the baby
  • Believing oneself to be a bad mother
  • Fear of harming the baby or oneself

Perinatal depression is also typically accompanied by symptoms of anxiety, which are often focused upon the self, the baby and/or significant others.  This sometimes includes intrusive thoughts of harming oneself or the baby.  See our blog about how to manage Intrusive Thoughts in Early Parenthood.

There are a number of things that can increase your risk of developing PND, including:

  • A history of depression or other mental health conditions
  • A personal or family history of PND
  • A difficult or traumatic pregnancy or childbirth
  • Lack of support from family and friends
  • Stressful life events

Treatments for PND

Effective treatments are available, and you should not suffer alone.  Treatment may include psychological therapy (such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).  Ideally you can consult a clinical psychologist who is experienced in working with families during the perinatal period (a perinatal psychologist) and understands the unique challenges of this period. 

You may also be prescribed antidepressant medication by your GP or psychiatrist.  This can also be effective, especially when taken in combination with psychological therapy.

How can the Centre for Clinical Psychology help with Perinatal Depression?

The Centre for Clinical Psychology provides evidence-based treatments for a range of mental health concerns, including postnatal depression and anxiety. Psychologists at the Centre for Clinical Psychology are highly trained and experienced in using a variety of therapies to help clients manage their symptoms. We can also support new parents to develop a connected relationship with their baby.  We understand the challenges of early parenthood and trust that all parents are trying their best. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with postnatal depression, the Centre for Clinical Psychology can help. To book an appointment, call the clinic on 03 9077 0122 or visit our website at https://ccp.net.au/booking/ to book online.