The term “perinatal period” refers to the time in family life from the beginning of pregnancy to the first birthday of the baby. Perinatal mental health refers to the emotional wellbeing of a mother, her partner and their baby during this period.
The perinatal period is often a time of adjustment and stress for parents.
It is common for new parents to experience feelings of distress and anxiety. This often resolves with the support of family and friends. Some parents develop depression during the perinatal period. Men are also at risk of depression and other mental health problems during this time. Regardless of who it is, symptoms of depression need assessment and treatment from a mental health clinician. In rare cases some women may develop psychosis during birth or after the birth of the baby. This is a serious mental illness which usually comes on quite rapidly and requires prompt treatment. Admission to hospital and medication may be necessary.
Having a history of mental illness can increase a woman’s risk of an episode of mental illness in the perinatal period. This can occur even if she has been well for some time prior to the pregnancy. For women with a history of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or psychosis there is a greater risk of relapse in the perinatal period particularly in the first 3 to 6 months. For these women it is most important that their mental health is regularly assessed and managed with a mental health clinician. Your health professional can also help with referral to other services to support new parents such as Tresillian or Karitane.
Referral to Perinatal Mental Health Services can come from:
- A family or woman can self-refer by contacting the Mental Health Line
- Child and Family Health Nurse
To find out more about perinatal mental health services phone:
- Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511
- Your GP
- Your maternity care provider