Perinatal and infant mental health

Perinatal mental health and infant mental health are in some respects like two sides of the same coin. They are terms that can be defined separately, but they are also quite interdependent. Both parents and their children exist within the overall context of the family, with the mental health of parents influencing their infant (or children) and vice versa.

What is perinatal mental health?

Perinatal mental health refers to the emotional and psychological wellbeing of a parent around the time of conception through to 12 months after a baby is born (the perinatal period).

Mental health issues that might be experienced during the perinatal period include:
  • Baby blues (common, up to 80% of mothers)
  • Depression – antenatal and/or postnatal (up to 1 in 7 mothers and around 1 in 10 fathers)
  • Anxiety disorders – antenatal and/or postnatal (thought to be more common than depression and can occur on its own or co-occur with depression for either parent)
  • Puerperal (postnatal) psychosis – requires immediate medical attention (rare, 1-2 in 1000 mothers)

What is infant mental health?

Infant mental health refers to the capacity of children from birth to age four to develop in such a way that they can experience, express and gradually learn to regulate their own emotions, form close and secure interpersonal relationships, and be open to exploring the environment and to learning.

Issues that may affect infants and young children can be associated with:
  • Attachment, parent-child interactions and relationships with others
  • Development and learning
  • Behaviour and emotional regulation
  • Sleep and feeding patterns
For further information, resources and links, visit our perinatal and infant mental health professional toolbox or sign up for our perinatal and infant mental health training.