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  • Writer's pictureLauren Buckley

What does "perinatal" mean!? Isn't it just "postpartum?"

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Many people have asked me what “perinatal mental health” means and if it differs from the commonly used term “postpartum.” The answer is both yes and no!

Perinatal can be broken down into its latin roots; peri meaning “around” and natal meaning “pertaining to birthdays” (or birth). Therefore, the perinatal period is defined as the time around birth! This includes conception, pregnancy, and postpartum (up to 12 months after giving birth).

In the past, most mental health professionals who work with women after birth have focused solely on the postpartum period. We are now realizing that perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (commonly referred to as PMADs) are seen both during pregnancy and after giving birth. Therefore, it is now more common to see the term “perinatal” which encompasses both pregnancy and postpartum.

About 20% (1 in 5) women experience a PMAD after giving birth and another 10% experience a PMAD during pregnancy. The most common postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, postpartum OCD, postpartum psychosis and postpartum traumatic stress disorder. Postpartum depression remains the most common medical complication (even over physical complications) after giving birth.

I will focus on each of these common postpartum mental health disorders in subsequent blog posts and will also focus on postpartum prevalence in men.

If you are thinking about becoming pregnant, are pregnant, or have recently given birth, Quiet Light Counseling is here to support you and specializes in pregnancy and postpartum therapy in Wilton, CT and via telehealth. Semantics of perinatal or postpartum counseling aside, my only goal is to help you get to a place where you can enjoy your baby and gain the tools and resources necessary to feel your best. You are not alone, Quiet Light Counseling is here to help.

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