Graphic showing 5 women: 3 are holding infants, 1 is holding twins and 1 is highlighted in orange and is pregnant

Perinatal mental health

What is perinatal mental health?

The terms perinatal and maternal are often used interchangeably. ‘Peri’ is the Latin for “around”, and ‘natal’ is the Latin for “birth”. So perinatal mental health refers to a woman’s mental health during pregnancy and the first years after birth.

This includes mental illness that existed before pregnancy, as well as illnesses that develop for the first time or are greatly exacerbated in the perinatal period.

Examples of perinatal mental health problems include antenatal and/or postnatal depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, postpartum psychosis and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). These illnesses can be mild, moderate or severe, requiring different kinds of care or treatment.

WATCH: perinatal mental health problems explained

Estimated numbers of women affected by perinatal mental illness, NSPCC

Key statistics about perinatal mental health in the UK

    1. More than 1 in 10 women experience a perinatal mental health problem during pregnancy or within the early postnatal years.

    2. 70% of women will hide or underplay their illness.

    3. Suicide is the leading cause of direct maternal death within a year of having a baby.

 

A worrying inequality…

In the UK, we take it for granted that all women will receive the support they need to look after their own physical health and that of their babies during pregnancy and the first year after birth.

Despite the importance of mental health for a mother and her baby, we know that a woman’s mental health will be treated very differently.

This inequality is leading to extremely serious problems that have a huge impact on women, their babies and their families.

Find out more

… but now is the time for this inequality to be tackled.

We call for the mental health of all women to be monitored, discussed and treated in the same way as her physical health during this crucial time. We also call for the same standard of perinatal mental health services to be available throughout the UK. Currently, women in large areas of the UK are not receiving the support they need, as our maps show.