Perinatal Mood Disorders

Also known as perinatal anxiety and depression or antenatal and postnatal depression.

What Does it Actually Mean?

Women who experience a depressed mood during the perinatal period (ie pregnancy to one year post partum) for 2 weeks or more that is impacting on their life. The symptoms may include tearfulness, changes to sleep and eating patterns, feeling overwhelmed, anxious, angry, tired, hyperactive. Around 20% of women and 10% of their partners will experience perinatal anxiety and depression.

Difficulties Associated with Diagnosis

Perinatal mood disorders are multi-factorial with a biological, psychological and social basis. Hormones and chemicals play a role, as does the media, portraying motherhood as blissful and mother as beautiful. General life experiences (past or present) and stressful events (such as moving/renovation, financial concerns), and issues relating to the pregnancy and birth are also factors. Many mothers do not have realistic expectations of motherhood and the major bi0-psycho-social changes that occur. When the reality is exhausting, repetitive and isolating, the transition from independent to invisible can be a shock. Many women do not want to admit they are not living up to societal or their personal expectations. Other women are not able to articulate their feelings. Women do not want to be judged as mad, bad or sad. There is under-reporting by women and misdiagnosis by professionals. Referral pathways are difficult.

Getting Professional Help

Professional counselling is considered the most effective treatment. Antidepressant medication can be prescribed in conjunction with counselling, but should be carefully monitored. Professionals who can help include: PG, obstetrician, psychologist, psychiatrist, ECHC nurse, mothercraft nurse, midwife, supported play group. There are differences in the nature, severity and duration of symptoms of perinatal mood disorders and professional help is recommended in order to diagnose and then identify the best approach to treatment.

General Practitioners

General practitioners are generally the first step in seeking professional help. Some GP’s have an interest in PND and will identify and optimal treatment plan for you. Furthermore, an increasing number of GP’s are registered with the Better Outcomes Project and can refer you to a social worker or psychologist trained in the psychological assessment and the treatment of PND. The Better Outcomes Project enables you to have a number of sessions with a rebate via Medicare. Remember that your obstetrician or paediatrician can also assist you in seeking help if you let them know that you need help.

Social Workers/Psychologists/Psychiatrists

These professionals are skilled in psychological assessment and in a variety of treatment approaches and can be assessed in private practice or may be part of a medical/counselling practice. They will assess your individual/family needs and tailor a treatment plan to meet your needs.

Early Childhood Health Centres

A number of projects going on and much greater awareness within nursing community and Perinatal mood disorders.

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