While depression during pregnancy or early parenthood (the perinatal period) is the same as at any other time of life, the risk of it developing at this time is greater.
Australian research indicates that depression is experienced by up to one in ten women (10%) during pregnancy and one in seven women (16%) in the year following birth. The rates of anxiety disorders are likely to be even higher and many women are likely to experience both depression and anxiety disorders concurrently.
Depression may develop gradually or within a short period of time. The causes of depression at this time can be complex and are often the result of a combination of factors. While up to 80 per cent of women experience the ‘baby blues’ in the days immediately following the birth, depression is longer-lasting and may persist for many months or even years if not treated.
Depression can have significant effects on the health and wellbeing not only of the mother, but also her partner and the development of the foetus/baby and other children. In many instances perinatal depression is not recognised as symptoms are often viewed in the context of pregnancy or adjusting to the baby. In addition, high levels of stigma may prevent women seeking help.