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Fotografia in gravidanza

Perinatal Mental Health (PMH)

Pregnancy, birth and early parenthood can be stressful because they may change women’s identity, physical health and economic situation. Perinatal anxiety and depression in the perinatal period are common, affecting an estimated 1 in 10 women in high-income countries and one in five in low- and middle-income countries. This highlights the importance of supporting PMH globally.

Women who already have a history of perinatal mental health problems may find that their symptoms represent or worsen during the perinatal period. Others may experience poor mental health for the first time during this period. 

Frequency of perinatal mental health conditions 

Anxiety and depression are the most common mental health issues in the perinatal period. Until recently most research on mental health in the perinatal period focused primarily on postnatal depression, yet there is a growing body of research into other types of mental illnesses during the perinatal period, including pregnancy.

Source: Guide for integration of perinatal mental health in maternal and child health services. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2022. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.

pancia incinta


Worsening of a woman’s mental health during the perinatal period may affect her well-being and that of her infant and family. Poor mental health, particularly if severe and left untreated, can be associated with higher risks of obstetric complications and less optimal outcomes at birth (e.g., pre-eclampsia, haemorrhage, premature delivery, stillbirth lower infant birthweight). In addition, women may be less likely to attend antenatal and postnatal appointments. Offspring born to women who experience a mental health condition such as depression during pregnancy, can also be at greater risk to develop physical illnesses, and emotional and behavioural difficulties in childhood, adolescence and also adulthood , as well as a less optimal mother-infant relationship.

Social determinants and other risk factors 

Some women may be at greater risk of poor mental health during the perinatal period because of personal factors, external circumstances or other health conditions. Services should be aware of circumstances that indicate that a woman may need more intensive mental health interventions.

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