The transition to motherhood: Towards a broader understanding of perinatal distress

Sofia Rallis, Helen Skouteris, Marita McCabe, Jeannette Milgrom

Research output: Contribution to journalComment / DebateOtherpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Background: A substantial body of research has focused on maternal perinatal mood and wellbeing, with the focus predominantly being on depression, and to a lesser extent, anxiety. Perinatal maternal stress has also been investigated recently, but to a far lesser extent. The present paper questions whether the term 'perinatal distress' accurately captures the range of challenges experienced by women during the perinatal period, when the scope of 'distress' is limited to the experience of depression and anxiety alone. Method: A review of the perinatal literature was conducted using several databases, to identify studies that have focused on the experience of stress as a distinct affective state in the perinatal period. Findings: The findings of two recent studies which have employed a broader conceptualisation of perinatal distress to encompass the experience of stress as well as depression and anxiety are outlined. These recent studies have identified the experience of stress both in conjunction with and independent of depression and anxiety. Conclusion: It is argued that future studies should investigate the concept of stress as a separate affective state throughout the perinatal period, in order to further assess how it differs from depression and/or anxiety. A more comprehensive understanding of women's experiences during their transition to motherhood, and whether 'stress' plays a critical role in the development and maintenance of perinatal anxiety and/or depression is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)68-71
Number of pages4
JournalWomen and Birth
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Perinatal
  • Postpartum
  • Stress

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