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09th May 2022

Mental Health Week: We need to talk about perinatal depression

Trine Jensen-Burke

It’s more common than you think.

While many pregnancies represent a happy and exciting time for pregnant people and their families, perinatal depression ensures this is not the case for everyone.

Some parents-to-be might have mixed, or even negative, feelings about being pregnant or the birth of their baby.  And some may simply find it more difficult than others to cope with the changes and uncertainties which pregnancy brings.

First of all – feeling nervous and a little stressed and anxious about this change, and about the enormity of impending parenthood, is absolutely perfectly normal. You are not alone if you are experiencing these feelings. Secondly, you can – and should – tell someone if you are feeling overwhelmed with your pregnancy. Or feeling like this is all too much.

Your GP, public health nurse and also the staff based in the maternity services, are all equipped to help you – and are there to help you should you feel like you are experiencing mental health difficulties during pregnancy.

Don’t keep it a secret

Britney Spears recently revealed she is expecting her third baby; her first with her current partner, Sam Asghari.

In her Instagram post, the singer admitted that when pregnant with her boys, Sean Preston, 16, and Jayden James, 15, she suffered with perinatal depression – and what made it even worse, she explained, was that she felt it was something she needed to keep secret and not talk about out of fear she would be deemed a bad or unfit mother.

“When I was pregnant I had perinatal depression,” Britney wrote in a post on Instagram.

“I have to say it is absolutely horrible. Women didn’t talk about it back then. Some people considered it dangerous if a woman complained like that with a baby inside her. But now women talk about it every day. Thank Jesus we don’t have to keep that pain a reserved proper secret.”

We reached out to the HSE about the issue of perinatal mental health, and these are the 10 things about perinatal depression every family should be aware of:

  1. You can still be a great parent, even if you are experiencing perinatal mental problems.
  2. 10-15% of women can experience mild to moderate postnatal depression, and fathers and partners can suffer with perinatal mental health problems too.
  3. Your GP, public health nurse, midwife and obstetrician are there to discuss any mental health problems you are concerned about.
  4. You won’t have your baby taken away if you ask for help with your mental health.
  5. Antenatal mental illness (untreated) is a strong risk factor for postnatal illness, so it’s important to seek help while you are pregnant.
  6. 70-100% of pregnant people experience unwanted, intrusive thoughts about their baby.
  7. There are a range of supports available including education, psychological and social.  For those with more severe problems, medication might be recommended.
  8. You can take most mental health medications while you are pregnant and breastfeeding.
  9. Women are routinely asked about their mental health at booking clinics in maternity units/hospitals. Please share any concerns you have with your midwife.
  10. Perinatal Mental Health Midwives and Perinatal Mental Health teams based in maternity services provide specialist support; ask for help if you need it.

A series of information resources developed by the HSE to support those experiencing mental health difficulties during pregnancy, as well as their partners, family and friends, are available here on the

Read more: “Everything went black” – one mum on her battle with postnatal depression