Perinatal depression: causes, symptoms and tips to overcome it

Pregnancy is a time marked by illusions, but also by suffering. Some mothers experience, shortly before or after childbirth, what is called perinatal depression (PND).

This form of depression, which can be particularly tragic for her and her child, is a special manifestation that requires different treatment from major depression because it has its own characteristics. We explain the keys to understanding it and review the most effective treatments.

    Perinatal depression, more than postpartum

    For some time now, psychologists have broadened the definition of what was previously called postpartum depression.

    We know that depression can start a few months before childbirth and it is the same phenomenon that will haunt a mother’s mood for the year following childbirth.

    Clinical description

    Perinatal depression includes any minor or major depressive episode that occurs during pregnancy or within 12 months of giving birth.. There is some degree of uncertainty as to the incidence of the disorder. Several studies agree on prevalence rates ranging from 10 to 15%. However, by excluding studies where the diagnosis is based solely on self-reports, rates of 6.5% to 12.9% are achieved. It is a global phenomenon, not exclusive to Western society.


    Mothers who suffer from it feel extremely guilty, some even come to hate their child. They feel lonely and overwhelmed, need help and don’t know how to ask for it. They are filled with ruminant thoughts, sticky beliefs that they have a hard time shedding and that are seriously damaging to their lives.

    Women with perinatal depression are in a period of role transition from woman to mother, Which is difficult to assume. Likewise, difficulties in communicating with the partner can further worsen the feeling of being completely alone.

    The severity of the disorder is not limited to how disabling it can be for the person who suffers from it. Maternal perinatal depression is associated with a higher incidence of excessive crying in children, colic, sleep problems, temperament disturbances, poorer self-regulation and more indicators of stress. It is also associated with negative mother-child interactions, including disaffection, withdrawal, interference and hostility, as well as poor interpersonal child functioning, insecure affection, and high rates of problems. behavioral and emotional.

    The main risk factor for perinatal depression is inadequate social support. The danger is increased by various deficiencies in social support such as:

    • Not having someone like that to talk to openly.
    • Not having friends or intimate relationships.
    • Not receiving support without having to ask for it.
    • Feeling socially isolated.

    Treatment and advice

    A very common feature of perinatal depression is that mothers are ashamed of having depression, so much so that they do not seek help. For that, it is especially important to normalize perinatal depression.

    Anyone can suffer from an emotional disorder, especially during such a difficult time as pregnancy and the enormous changes that this entails in family life. The arrival of a little one always marks a before and an after.

    1. Psychoeducation and activation

    The foundation stone for overcoming perinatal depression is laid when the mother understands what is happening to her and why it is happening to her. Once done, you can start planning a whole host of activities that will get you started and feeling useful again.

    2. Learn to be a mother

    One of the main concerns of mothers with perinatal depression is falling short and being a “bad mother”.. The truth is, no mother learns by magic, and some people can cost more than others. In addition to attacking these thoughts, it will be essential for mothers to learn to feel comfortable interacting with their babies.

    A good way to do this may be to attend workshops that teach you how to play with your baby, such as dealing with difficult situations (incessant crying, scolding, etc.) or feeding problems. Support groups can be very helpful in suggesting alternative behaviors that promote the optimal relationship with the baby.

    3. Work the social support and communication network

    Since perinatal depression is a distinctly social disorder, it is essential to identify which modes of communication are not working. It will be necessary for the mother and father to learn to relate and communicate what they think clearly and without accusation. If we do this, we will achieve two things: that the mother can ask for and receive help, and stop feeling completely alone and overwhelmed.

    Support groups are a very important network in this regard.. Being able to talk to other mothers who are going through the same process, share their own experiences and receive advice from other women will make her feel supported and better prepared to face motherhood.

    4. Paper transitions

    Motherhood is difficult to integrate. The change of role can mean the loss of personal meaning, moving from the active woman to the simple mother.

    It will be very important to recover those activities which were part of the mother’s identity. Identify those reinforcements that existed before the baby such as feeling like doing a good job or enjoying an afternoon with friends, as well as finding opportunities in the new routine so that you can integrate them again.

    There may also be a conflict between long-term goals (for example, between family and work). Sometimes it will be necessary to rethink goals and restructure them to make them as harmonious as they are realistic.

    5. Attacking maladaptive thoughts

    As with any emotional disorder, we will have to work with cognitive techniques thinking that instead of helping, Grounding people in the depths of depression.

    Mothers will need to learn to identify in which situations they appear and to acquire strategies to anticipate them or know how to neutralize when they appear with more adaptive thoughts and adapted to reality.

    In addition, it is especially important to develop the habit of thinking about problems only to solve them. It’s very easy to get stuck in the emotional discomfort caused by our worries, but the only way out of this quicksand is to take some distance and remember that when faced with a problem, there is no way. other issue. .

    Leave a Comment