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Perinatal Mental Health

Updated: Feb 19, 2023

Most of the women expect to feel happy, excited and positive during pregnancy, and when the baby is born. But it doesn’t always happen like this. One can feel many different emotions during pregnancy and after birth but these emotions are quite normal.

The person is highly stressful about:


  1. Physical, physiological and endocrinal changes occurring in one’s body.

  2. ‘New Mother’ role.

  3. Body image changes.

  4. Unconscious intrapsychic conflicts.

Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)


Perinatal mental health refers to a woman’s mental health during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Postpartum blues are a common but lesser manifestation of postpartum affective disturbance.


Prevalence and outcomes:

A systematic review of 37 studies (including 5,700 deliveries in 4,023 women) found that (i.e., psychosis, mania and/or hospitalization). More than 50% of women with pre‐existing bipolar disorder experience a severe postnatal mental illness.

While the prevalence of suicide during pregnancy or postpartum in different contexts is unknown.


Common symptoms include but are not limited to:


  1. Irritability or anger.

  2. Change in sleep and appetite patterns.

  3. Increased levels of sadness or emptiness.

  4. Feelings of guilt or shame.

  5. Lack of interest in past hobbies.

  6. Trouble creating emotional connections with your baby or intrusive thoughts.

  7. Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.

  8. Nightmares

  9. Feelings of anxiety

  10. Detachment from reality


Risk factors:

  1. past history of depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, as well.

  2. Lower socioeconomic status

  3. psychosocial factors, such as ongoing conflict with the partner,

  4. Poor social and emotional support

  5. Ongoing stressful life events, violence and stigma.

Impact on the mother and infant


Mental illness in parents in the first postnatal year seems to alter parents’ behavior's in terms of affect expressions, attention, and sensitivity during these early interactions.

A systematic review of studies found associations between:


  1. Perinatal mental health issues and preterm delivery,

  2. Low birth weight

  3. Impaired postnatal infant growth

  4. Insecure infant-mother attachments

  5. Suboptimal breastfeeding practices.


Impact on infant:

  1. Undernutrition, stunting, diarrhea.

  2. Problems in breastfeeding.

  3. Low academic achievement.

  4. Socio-emotional and cognitive delays.

  5. Childhood depression.

  6. Behavioral problems.


Interventions:


  1. All women need access to antenatal care in pregnancy, skilled care during childbirth, and care and support in the weeks after childbirth.

  2. Psycho educating the new parents regarding the changes during the period.

  3. Consult mental health practitioners

  4. Join Support Groups.

  5. Behavioral activation and maintaining a routine.



Dr. Damanjit Kaur (MD Psychiatry)

Shefali Bhardwaj (Psychologist)

Faith Hospital, Chandigarh







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