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One in ten mothers of children aged 24 months or less have been diagnosed with perinatal depression, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Perinatal depression: data from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey, shows that of an estimated 111,000 mothers diagnosed with depression, about 56,000 had perinatal depression (that is, the depression was diagnosed between the time they were pregnant until the child’s first birthday).

‘Certain population groups are more likely to experience perinatal depression,’ said AIHW spokesperson Ann Hunt.

‘For example, almost 19% of mothers who smoked daily experienced perinatal depression, compared to about 9% of those who didn’t smoke,’ Ms Hunt said.

’And mothers living in the lowest income households were more likely to experience perinatal depression than those in the highest (14% compared to 7%).’

Other groups more likely to experience perinatal depression included younger mothers under the age of 25, mothers who were overweight or obese, those who spoke English as their main language at home, and mothers who had had an emergency caesarean section.

The rate of perinatal depression also varied by location.

For example, mothers living in Major cities and Remote/Very remote areas reported slightly lower rates of perinatal depression than those from other geographical areas.

Perinatal depression was less commonly reported among mothers who had higher levels of education (bachelor degree or higher), were working at the time of the survey, and primarily spoke a language other than English at home.

‘Of those we know about who sought help, the majority received help from their general practitioner or support from family and friends,’ Ms Hunt said.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 3 July 2012

Further information: Ms Ann Hunt, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1238, mob. 0407 915 851

Full publication: Perinatal depression: data from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey