Perinatal depression: What is the condition Britney Spears suffered from during her previous pregnancy?

 (Getty Images for GLAAD)
(Getty Images for GLAAD)

Britney Spears has announced she is pregnant with her third child, six months after her 13-year conservatorship was ended.

The 40-year-old pop star revealed that she suffered from perinatal depression during her previous pregnancy, adding: “I have to say it is absolutely horrible.”

Spears has two children, Sean Preston Federline, 15, and Jayden James Federline, 15, from her previous marriage to Kevin Federline. Her third pregnancy is shared with her 28-year-old fiancee, Sam Asghari.

In an Instagram post announcing her pregnancy, the Toxic singer wrote: “Women didn’t talk about [perinatal depression] 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.”

But what is perinatal depression and what are the symptoms?

What is perinatal depression?

Perinatal depression is a mood disorder that occurs during or after pregnancy and can range from being mild to severe.

The word “perinatal” refers to the period of time before and after the birth of a child, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in the US.

The condition includes prenatal depression (depression during pregnancy) and postpartum depression (depression that begins after the baby is born).

What are the symptoms of perinatal depression?

Mothers who experience perinatal depression experience feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety and fatigue.

These feelings can be so overwhelming that some mothers may find themselves unable to carry out daily tasks or take care of themselves.

According to mental health charity Mind, symptoms include:

  • Feeling down, upset or tearful

  • Feeling restless, agitated or irritable

  • Feeling guilty or worthless

  • Feeling empty and numb

  • Feeling isolated and unable to relate to other people

  • Finding no pleasure in life or things you usually enjoy

  • Having no self-confidence or self-esteem

  • Feeling hostile or indifferent to your partner and/or your baby

Mothers with perinatal depression may also find that they can’t concentrate, find it difficult to get to sleep, lack an appetite and lack interest in sex.

What causes perinatal depression?

While there is no single cause of perinatal depression, studies have suggested that it can be brought on by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, such as stress and the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and caring for a new baby.

Changes in hormones that occur during pregnancy also contribute to the development of perinatal depression, the NIMH says.

Women who have a personal or family history of depression or who have experienced it with a previous pregnancy are also at greater risk of developing it.

However, anyone who becomes pregnant could experience perinatal depression.

What treatments are available for perinatal depression?

If you are experiencing symptoms of perinatal depression, you should discuss what the best treatment for you would be with your GP.

You may be offered talking therapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or interpersonal therapy (IPT), which are commonly recommended treatments for depression.

It may help to start taking anti-depressants, if you and your doctor agree this is the best treatment for you. You should discuss any concerns about taking medication with your GP or pharmacist.

Some people may benefit from a combination of both talking therapy and anti-depressants,

According to Mind, if you have very severe depression that doesn’t respond to other treatments, your doctor may suggest electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

This treatment can be used during pregnancy, but there may be concerns about giving anaesthetic to someone who is pregnant. You can speak to your doctor about this.

If you have been affected by any issues mentioned in this article, you can contact The Samaritans for free on 116 123 or any of the following mental health organisations: