Feature Article

Maternal depression: postnatal or perinatal?

Anne Buist, Adaobi Udechuku



Maternal depression and anxiety and common antenatally and postnatally. Both can affect child development and long-term maternal wellbeing. Being aware of risk factors, engaging carefully and treating assertively are important to improve long-term outcomes.

Key Points

  • Postnatal depression often begins antenatally and there can be as many anxiety symptoms as there are depressive symptoms.
  • Maternal depression and anxiety can have significant effects on the development of the child and on the long-term wellbeing of the mother.
  • Women often do not recognise the signs of maternal depression and delay asking for help.
  • Early intervention is critical; therefore, it is important for GPs to have a high index of suspicion in women who may be at risk of depression.
  • The risks and benefits to both the mother and the child need to be taken into consideration when making decisions on which medication to use for treating patients with maternal depression.
  • Patients should be referred or specialist advice sought if risk factors are high, the depression is severe or primary care options fail.