Perinatal Depression in Australia

Perinatal Depression Stats

Perinatal depression is a mood disorder that can affect women during pregnancy and after childbirth.

Here are the critical points about perinatal depression:

  • It refers to depression that occurs during pregnancy (prenatal depression) or in the first year after giving birth (postpartum depression).
  • It is estimated to affect around 1 in 7 women during the perinatal period.
  • Risk factors include a personal or family history of depression, stressful life events, lack of social support, hormonal changes, and complications during pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Untreated perinatal depression can have negative impacts on the mother’s health and well-being, as well as on the baby’s development and the mother-infant bond.
  • It is essential for women experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression to seek professional help, as the condition is treatable with proper care and support.
  • In severe cases, perinatal depression can progress to postpartum psychosis, which requires immediate medical attention and hospitalisation.

The key is recognising the signs and seeking appropriate treatment, as perinatal depression is a severe but treatable condition that can have significant impacts on both the mother and child if left unaddressed.

Perinatal Depression

What are the Causes of Perinatal Depression?

There are several potential causes and risk factors associated with perinatal depression (depression during pregnancy or after childbirth). Here are the fundamental causes and risk factors:

Hormonal Changes

Significant fluctuations in hormone levels during pregnancy and after childbirth, particularly the rapid drop in estrogen and progesterone levels after delivery, can contribute to chemical imbalances in the brain and increase the risk of depression.

Personal or Family History of Depression

  • Women with a personal history of depression or other mood disorders are at a higher risk of developing perinatal depression.
  • Those with a family history of depression or postpartum depression are also more susceptible.

Stressful Life Events

Experiencing stressful life events, such as relationship problems, financial difficulties, or traumatic experiences, can increase the risk of perinatal depression.

Perinatal Depression Australia

Lack of Social Support

Having limited social support from family, friends, or a partner during pregnancy and after childbirth can contribute to the development of perinatal depression.

Complications During Pregnancy or Childbirth

Complications or difficulties during pregnancy or childbirth, such as preterm delivery, pregnancy loss, or medical issues, can increase the risk of perinatal depression.

Lifestyle Factors

Factors like poor nutrition, lack of exercise, and substance abuse can contribute to the development of perinatal depression.

Genetic Factors

Research suggests that genetic factors may play a role in the development of perinatal depression, as it tends to run in families.

Perinatal Depression Women

What are the Symptoms of Perinatal Depression?

The key symptoms of perinatal depression can consist of:

Mood Symptoms

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness most of the day, nearly every day
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or excessive guilt
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Irritability or restlessness

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Persistent doubts about the ability to care for the baby

Physical Symptoms

  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Sleep disturbances (insomnia or oversleeping)
  • Appetite or weight changes
  • Physical aches, pains, and headaches with no apparent cause

Behavioural Symptoms

  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with the baby

Severe Symptoms

  • Thoughts of death, harming oneself or the baby, or suicide attempts (requires immediate medical attention)
  • In rare cases, postpartum psychosis with delusions, hallucinations, mania, paranoia, and confusion (psychiatric emergency)

The symptoms can range from mild to severe and may interfere with daily functioning and caring for oneself or the baby. It’s essential to seek professional help if experiencing these symptoms during pregnancy or after childbirth, as perinatal depression is treatable with proper care and support.

How is Perinatal Depression Treated?

Perinatal depression can be treated through a combination of approaches, including:


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy are two forms of psychotherapy that have been proven effective in treating perinatal depression. CBT helps identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviours, while Interpersonal Therapy focuses on improving interpersonal relationships and communication.
  • Support groups and counselling can also help provide emotional support and coping strategies.


  • Antidepressants, particularly selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), may be prescribed in cases of moderate to severe perinatal depression. However, the risks and benefits of medication during pregnancy and breastfeeding should be carefully evaluated by a healthcare provider.
  • Other medications like anti-anxiety drugs or mood stabilisers may be used in some cases, depending on the individual’s symptoms and circumstances.

Combination Therapy

A combination of psychotherapy and medication is often recommended for effective treatment, especially in cases of moderate to severe perinatal depression.

Other Approaches

  • Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, stress management techniques (e.g., meditation, yoga), and getting adequate sleep can be beneficial as complementary approaches.
  • Involving partners and family members and building a solid support system can also aid recovery.
  • In severe cases, such as postpartum psychosis with delusions or suicidal thoughts, hospitalisation may be necessary for the safety of the mother and baby.

Early identification, prompt treatment, and continued monitoring are crucial for managing perinatal depression effectively and minimising potential risks to the mother and child. A comprehensive treatment plan tailored to the individual’s needs is often recommended.

Treatment of Perinatal Depression from Dr Clem Bonney

Dr Clem Bonney, can help those with perinatal depression access the assistance required to manage and treat their perinatal depression.  Dr Bonney’s caring and compassionate approach to evaluation and treatment assists with early intervention and improved outcomes.