Risk factors

Risk factors are characteristics or experiences that increase the likelihood that someone will develop an illness.

These factors are more common in parents experiencing depression or anxiety.

If you have one or more of these risk factors it does not necessarily mean you will develop perinatal depression or anxiety – each person is unique and responds to triggers differently.

  • History of perinatal loss, e.g., miscarriage, stillbirth or termination
  • History of infertility or infertility treatment
  • Current or past history of physical, psychological, or sexual abuse
  • Personal or family history of mental health problems or current mental health problems
  • History of menstrual-related mood disorders (e.g. premenstrual dysphoric disorder)
  • Symptoms of mood disorders during past use of hormonal contraceptive methods
  • Young parental age
  • Anxious or perfectionist personality
  • Lack of support from family and friends
  • Stressful life events (e.g., moving house)
  • Partner experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety
  • Unplanned, unwanted, or mistimed pregnancy
  • Fetal anomaly or infant illness
  • Having a baby born prematurely
  • Having multiples (e.g. twins or triplets)
  • Traumatic birth experience
  • Pregnancy, labour or delivery complications
  • Severe baby blues after the birth
  • Difficulty breastfeeding
  • A baby that is difficult to settle
  • Severe continuing lack of sleep or rest


Moore, D., & Ayers, S. (2011). A review of postnatal mental health websites: help for healthcare professionals and patients. Archive of Women’s Mental Health, 14(6), 443-452. doi:10.1007/s00737-011-0245-

beyondblue. (2015). Life factors that increase risk. Beyondblue: Melbourne, Australia. URL: http://www.beyondblue.org.au/

Black Dog Institute (2013). Causes and risk factors. Black Dog Institute: Sydney, Australia. URL: http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

Last reviewed 24 April 2016