What Is Perinatal Depression? A Comprehensive Guide


If you are pregnant or have recently given birth, you may be wondering if you’re experiencing perinatal depression – this is a type of depression that can occur during pregnancy or after childbirth. It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of perinatal depression so that you can get help if needed.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about perinatal depression including what causes it, how to get help, and the risks associated with it. We hope this information will help you better understand this condition and provide some guidance on how to deal with it if you or someone close to you is affected by it.

What is perinatal depression and what are the signs that you may be experiencing it?

Perinatal depression is a form of clinical depression that can occur during pregnancy or in the first year after childbirth. It affects up to one in seven women* and can have serious consequences for both mother and child. Common signs and symptoms of perinatal depression include:

  • Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or emptiness
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring joy
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Fatigue or low energy levels
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Anxiety or panic attacks
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek help from a healthcare provider. Perinatal depression is treatable and the sooner you get help, the better.

What are some of the causes of perinatal depression and how does it differ from postpartum depression?

There are a variety of different factors that can contribute to the development of perinatal depression – these might include hormonal changes, sleep deprivation, stress, and previous history of mental illness. However, it’s worth noting that not all women who experience these things will go on to develop perinatal depression. 

Perinatal depression differs from postpartum depression in that it can occur during pregnancy as well as after childbirth, whereas postpartum depression is a type of clinical depression that occurs specifically in the weeks and months following childbirth.

While both conditions are serious, perinatal depression may be more difficult to detect because symptoms can often be attributed to the physical and emotional changes that are normal during pregnancy and early motherhood.

What are some of the risks associated with perinatal depression and how can it affect both mother and child?

When left untreated, perinatal depression can have serious consequences for both mother and child. Some of the risks associated with perinatal depression include:

  • Increased risk of postpartum depression
  • Difficulty bonding with your baby
  • Poor pregnancy outcomes
  • Increased risk of preterm labour
  • Low birth weight babies
  • Increased risk of child abuse and neglect

How can you get help if you think you may be suffering from perinatal depression?

If you think you may be suffering from perinatal depression, it’s crucial that you seek help as soon as possible. This can be a difficult thing to do, but there are many resources available to help you.

At the Centre for Clinical Psychology in Melbourne, we are fully qualified and highly experienced in helping pregnant women and new mothers overcome the symptoms associated with perinatal depression. Our mental health professionals will work closely alongside you to develop a personalised treatment plan that will help you restore emotional balance and regain a quality day-to-day lifestyle.

Book an appointment today

To schedule a perinatal counselling appointment at the Centre for Clinical Psychology, simply give us a call on 03 9077 0122 or book online using our contact form. We can also assist with postnatal mental health, anxiety counselling, PTSD therapy and more.


U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (Updated 2021). NIMH Strategic Plan for Research (NIH Publication No. 20-MH-8120). Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/perinatal-depression.

* Wisner KL, Sit DKY, McShea MC, et al. Onset Timing, Thoughts of Self-harm, and Diagnoses in Postpartum Women With Screen-Positive Depression Findings. JAMA Psychiatry. 2013;70(5):490–498. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.87