Perinatal depression

Emotional health 

The perinatal (antenatal and postnatal) period is a time when your emotional health may be more vulnerable, as depression and other mental health issues can be experienced at this time.

The Australian Government and the South Australian Government have committed to the ‘National Perinatal Depression Initiative’, which seeks to provide help and support to women in the perinatal period.

Key objectives of this initiative:

  • all women to receive screening for depression in pregnancy and postnatally
  • follow up support and care for women assessed as being at risk of or experiencing perinatal depression
  • workforce training and development for health professionals 
  • research and data collection
  • national guidelines for screening for perinatal depression
  • community awareness

Screening for depression

Screening for depression is currently being introduced throughout Australia. It is intended that all pregnant and postnatal women in Australia will be offered two questionnaires, which will provide women with the opportunity to discuss emotional health. The questionnaires will not be compulsory.

The first questionnaire is called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scale. This consists of 10 questions and you will be asked to choose from four options and to mark the answer which best represents how you have felt in the past seven days. 

The second questionnaire is the Antenatal Risk Questionnaire if pregnant, or the Postnatal Risk Questionnaire if you have already had your baby.

Antenatally, this questionnaire will be given to you by your midwife, obstetrician or GP.

Postnatally, these will usually be given out by the Child & Family Health nurse at the universal contact visit.

It is important to remember that:

  • The scales are routine. They are given to every woman who is due or has had a baby.
  • There are no right or wrong answers. It’s only your own feelings which are important.
  • If you are depressed, the health care worker who is giving the scale would simply want to try to help.
  • Treatment does not have to be medication, for example, counselling & talking therapies can be helpful.

These questionnaires ask about experiences or aspects in your life which may have been difficult. 

Again, the health care worker who has given you the scale will simply want to try and help, or offer choices for help, if you have experienced difficult events in the past.

Examples of what women may be offered include relevant information and self-help strategies, individual counselling, and contact with support groups.

We know that having support in place, or even the knowledge of support, in case you need it, can often prevent or reduce postnatal distress.

Depression and anxiety in pregnancy and as a new mother

Often the time of pregnancy and a new baby brings expectations of joy, but in reality this isn’t always the case. It is important that women, families, health professionals and communities talk openly about low mood or other emotional problems.

Research indicates that around 12% of women become depressed during pregnancy and 15% experience postnatal depression. During pregnancy and after having a baby 10% of women will have significant anxiety. If left untreated depression and anxiety can have a negative impact on mothers, babies and families. 

Many women who experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy or postnatally are not identified and therefore do not receive adequate support.

Support & resources

If you are feeling down or anxious you should talk with your Midwife, Child and Family Health Nurse, GP, obstetrician or another professional involved in the care of you and your baby. They can help make sure you get support and help to feel better.

You may also access support via telephone help lines or websites. Some are local to South Australia and some are national. Confidentiality and safety is always respected with the highest importance.

PANDA - Postnatal and Antenatal Depression Association: 1300 726 306

beyondblue:1300 224 636

Child and Youth Health Parent helpline: 1300 364 100

Pregnancy birth and baby helpline: 1800 882 436

Lifeline:13 11 14

External Links:

Useful information on baby blues, anxiety, postnatal depression and other perinatal mental health issues can also be found on the following sites:

General and specific information about pregnancy, parenting and child health, including where to seek help in South Australia:

Information for family members where a parent has mental illness:

Information about resources in your area: