Perinatal depression

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 / pregnant people become depressed during pregnancy and 15% experience postnatal depression. During pregnancy and after having a baby 10% of women / birthing parents will have significant anxiety. If left untreated, depression and anxiety can have a negative impact on parents, babies and families.

Many of those who experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy or after birth (referred to as the perinatal period) are not identified and therefore do not receive adequate support. This is why we offer routine screening during pregnancy and after birth.

For some people the perinatal period will be the first time they have experienced troubles with their mental health, while for others it may be a recurrence of past problems.

Screening for depression and anxiety

Screening for depression and anxiety is done by offering you two questionnaires to complete during pregnancy and again after birth. These questionnaires are not compulsory but will provide you and your health care provider with the opportunity to discuss your emotional health.

These questionnaires ask about experiences or aspects in your life that may have been difficult and are referred to as the:

  • Edinburgh Postnatal Depression scale which consists of 10 questions asking you how you have felt in the past seven days. This will be given to you during pregnancy and after birth.
  • Risk Questionnaires
    • Antenatal Risk Questionnaire which will be given to you during pregnancy by your midwife, obstetrician, GP or Aboriginal Health Practitioner.
    • Postnatal Risk Questionnaire which will usually be given to you by the Child & Family Health nurse at the universal contact visit after birth.

Support options available

Support is available, and all the health care providers that you see during your perinatal period will know about these types of mental health troubles and how to connect you with the help you need.

You may be offered one or more of the following support strategies:

  • individual counselling
  • support groups
  • talking therapies
  • self-help strategies
  • targeted therapies like cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT)
  • medication, if appropriate.

Telephone or online support

You may also access support via telephone help lines or websites. Some are local to South Australia and some are national. Your confidentiality and safety are always the highest priorities.

Things to remember

It is important to remember that:

  • the questionnaires are routine. They are given to everyone who is pregnant 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, your health care provider will be able to talk this over with you to understand your situation better and advise you on steps you can take to feel better.
  • having support in place, or even the knowledge that support is available, can often prevent or reduce postnatal distress.