Borderline personality disorder (BPD) in the perinatal period

Living with borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be challenging. Having a baby makes things a bit more difficult. That’s why it is important to get help.

How common is borderline personality disorder?

Around 3 in 100 Australian women aged 25 or more experience borderline personality disorder.

What causes borderline personality disorder?

Problems in childhood may cause borderline personality disorder. This includes sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect.

What are the signs and symptoms?

  • Unstable and extreme emotions (sadness, irritability, anxiety)
  • Efforts to avoid being abandoned
  • A history of intense and unstable relationships with people
  • Not having a clear sense of who you are as a person or how you feel about yourself
  • Impulsiveness (e.g. spending lots of money, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Talking about or engaging in self-harm and/or suicidal behaviours
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Feelings of anger that may be intense, inappropriate or difficult to control
  • Being paranoid or feeling disconnected from the world when under stress

How is borderline personality disorder identified?

Talk to your doctor about your symptoms. If you have five or more of the symptoms listed above, you may have borderline personality disorder.

Parenting with borderline personality disorder

A mother with borderline personality disorder may struggle with her relationship with her baby. She may not feel the way she thinks that she should feel about the baby. She may also find caring for the baby difficult. It can be very hard to cope when the baby is crying or distressed when you have trouble managing your own distress.

Having a mother with borderline personality disorder affects infants in different ways. If the mother’s behaviour is ‘frightening’ for the infant or she has trouble responding to the infant’s emotional needs, it is more likely that the infant will develop problems with emotions and relationships. Having other people take care of the baby sometimes can reduce these effects on the baby.

Getting support

  • A family support service may be able to visit you and your infant in your home
  • An individual therapist can support you and help you manage your feelings
  • Therapy for you and your infant helps to build on your relationship
  • Having someone else care for the baby (family or child care) gives you a break to look after yourself

Download our Borderline Personality Disorder Fact Sheet