What is the difference between perinatal anxiety and postnatal depression?

Information we find on the web or in the leaflets we are given when we are having a baby can sometimes be confusing. Health information tends to focus on depression and often mixes up depression and anxiety symptoms. While many people do experience both disorders at the same time, many do not.  This means some women experiencing anxiety don’t realise they have a problem, because the only information really given to them tends to be about postnatal depression which they don’t relate to.

“I didn’t realise I was ill. I knew something was not quite right, but I kept reading the list of symptoms for postnatal depression in the book and I couldn’t identify with them. I was happy…extremely happy, I was not tearful. I had lots of energy…probably too much energy I couldn’t sit still…”

To try to make things clearer, we’ve produced a list of some of the most common symptoms experienced in both conditions.  While some symptoms are unique to the depression or anxiety, others can be present in both.

Postnatal depression symptoms can include:

  • Tearfulness, sadness or excessive crying
  • Less interest in things you used to enjoy
  • Loss of motivation
  • Negative thoughts
  • Changes in appetite, eating too much or not being able to eat enough
  • Sleep problems (unrelated to pregnancy discomfort and baby sleeping)
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings guilt or shame
  • Physical complaints unrelated to any other medical conditions you might have (e.g. aching muscles, headaches, stomach upsets)
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or thinking straight

If you have experienced some of the above symptoms for more than 2 weeks, this might mean you have postnatal depression.

If you think you may be experiencing postnatal depression or anxiety contact your healthcare professional. You might find this website helpful for perinatal anxiety information and resources and the following contacts for perinatal depression:

Samaritans – helpline and email support for anyone struggling. Call for free on any phone no: 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. There are also local branches if you want to visit in person or you can write them a letter.

PANDAS – information and resources for postnatal depression, support groups, telephone helpline, online community.

Mind – information on postnatal depression and other mental health conditions.

Remember: Seeking help means you are a good mum

Look after yourself and seek help, if you need it.