Perinatal Depression is a term that describes depression in the period of pregnancy also referred to as Antenatal Depression as well as in the period following the birth also more commonly referred to as Postnatal Depression.In recent years there has been much more research into Postnatal depression which has raised general awareness and there are more chances these days that a new mother will be screened by health professionals.
Antenatal depression on the other hand is still commonly unheard of and many pregnant mothers suffer in silence, especially when surrounded by friends and family that expect them to be blissfully happy about the impending new arrival.
In many case of perinatal depression, the mother feels an enormous amount of guilt for feeling anything less than over the moon and ready to embrace motherhood with open arms.The reality however is that many women are affected in the antenatal and /or postnatal period and this can severely impact not only on the mothers mental health,but as research shows more and more clearly, also the babies mental health, even before birth and later on the babies healthy attachment.
Women who are at risk of developing issues around their mental health in the perinatal period often have had some form of trauma, depression and loss in the past. Especially if a mother has miscarried or lost a child previously, she is at considerable risk of developing antenatal depression.
It can be hugely beneficial for the mother to receive support before, during and after the critical period, which will in turn positively impact not only on her own ability to enjoy parenthood, but also bond with her baby more easily and strengthen her bond with the father during the transition to parenthood / renewed parenthood. This can be important whether both parents are still in a relationship or not.
For some mothers and fathers pregnancy or the period just after birth may be further complicated by finding out that their child has a disability, which can additionally impact on the bonding experience with the baby and increase the likelihood of mental ill health in the mother. Some mothers may then fear being judged if they admit to these feelings, as if that would somehow mean they don’t love their baby as much simply because of their special needs. In truth however, some children with special needs may require more time to bond and attach securely.
Support for both parents is vital at those times.And yes fathers can also suffer with postnatal depression triggered by the massive change in their role in life as a father and the change in the relationship with the mother.
Constanze offers counselling sessions at her Greenwich practise and has herself experienced perinatal depression after the birth of her severely disabled son Daniel. She has an enormous amount of compassion for mothers and fathers who are battling with any mental health issue during times of increased parenting pressure especially in the prenatal period and knows from personal experience just how big a difference counselling can make.
After volunteering for Mum’s Aid for some time and attending several of their specialist professional development training sessions Constanze now continues to specialise in this area, supporting both mothers and fathers.