Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Defining Perinatal Depression

  • Perinatal depression is a type of mood disorder and a common mental illness associated with negative outcomes for the person.   
  • Perinatal depression results in both short- and long-term adverse consequences in part because it is frequently unrecognized and undertreated.
  • The criteria for a diagnosis of "major depressive disorder with a peripartum onset" according to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders includes having at minimum either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure daily or close to daily over a two-week time frame in addition to four (or more) other symptoms including:
    • difficulties with sleep (insomnia or hypersomnia) almost every day;
    • a weight loss or gain of at least five per cent or more over one month not due to dieting or weight gain;
    • observed agitation or retardation;
    • daily loss of energy or fatigue;
    • difficulties with concentration or decisiveness;
    • feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt; or
    • recurring thoughts of death or suicidal ideation with or without a specific plan (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Women and Children
Assessment and Interventions Perinatal Depression
Background Information