Depression can happen at any stage of life. However, it’s more likely during pregnancy and the first year of motherhood. Fortunately, you can help reduce the risk of this type of depression through self-help measures or, where relevant, treatment.

Definitions, symptoms and causes

Depression during pregnancy or the first year after a child is born is called perinatal depression (PND); during pregnancy only is antenatal depression and affects 10% of women; after birth is postnatal depression, affecting 15%. Men may also experience depression, particularly partners of women with PND.

Symptoms may include: persistent (doesn’t go away) sadness and low mood; loss of interest in the world around you and pleasurable things; lack of energy and feeling tired all the time. The persistent feelings are different to the ‘baby blues’, which is common in women up to 10 days after birth, but clears on its own after a few weeks.

PND may be due to several factors including:

  • physical, emotional stress
  • hormone changes
  • health issues such as persistent nausea
  • personal situation such as an unwanted pregnancy, poor social support

Prevention

Speak to your GP about having an assessment of developing PND risk if you’ve previously had depression or persistently felt very low during pregnancy. If your risk is high, your doctor may recommend treatment such as medications.

Self-help measures that can be useful for prevention include:

  • get as much rest, relaxation as possible
  • reduce stress
  • regular exercise
  • healthy diet
  • avoid alcohol
  • talk about your worries with your partner, family, friends

Mindfulness meditation may also help prevent depression. It involves not worrying about the past or future, instead paying attention to the present moment with purpose and without judgment. Beyondblue, a leading Australian mental health resource, has developed a free mindfulness meditation app, Mind the Bump www.beyondblue.org.au

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