NEW BABY, NEW CHALLENGES
Perinatal anxiety and depression can develop with new or expectant parents. Know the warning signs, and don’t be afraid to seek help
Know the warning signs for perinatal depression – and how to seek help
Transitioning to parenthood can be a challenging time. Your life completely changes and you are suddenly responsible for a tiny human who relies on you for around-the-clock care. It is natural to experience some moments of parental anxiety, as well as ups and downs when transitioning to having a new baby in your home. Coupled with limited sleep, the early days and months of parenthood can be a testing time for new mums and dads.
ABOUT PERINATAL ANXIETY
Perinatal anxiety and depression can affect mums-to-be, new mums and even dads. It is a common mental illness that doesn’t discriminate, and can be difficult to identify. You may have heard the term post-natal depression, but as more expectant parents are suffering with anxiety than ever before, experts have moved their focus to include the period before bub comes along. PANDA’s [Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia] national helpline and programs manager, Jenni Richardson, says anxiety is just as common during pregnancy. “Perinatal anxiety and depression can begin at any time from conception to the first year after birth. Many people might not recognise what is happening to them until their child is more than one year old,” she says.
Around 80 per cent of new mums experience the ‘baby blues’. During labour,
PERINATAL ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION CAN BE TREATED WITH THE RIGHT HELP
your hormones are working overtime and, let’s face it, giving birth is life-changing, so it’s common to feel tearful, moody, anxious and irritable from the third to the tenth day after your baby is born.
It’s important to have a good support network to help you through the first two weeks, people who will listen to your concerns – no matter how small – and boost your confidence in your role as a parent. If these feelings continue to stay with you for longer, confide in someone you trust. Or, if you notice that a loved one is feeling down, don’t hesitate to ask them if they’re okay.
“Perinatal anxiety and depression is treatable and the earlier help is sought, the faster the recovery,” Jenni says. “Left untreated, the impact on mum, partner, baby and other children can be devastating. The more we talk about these issues, the more prepared we will be to recognise when a family member or friend might need help.” It’s important to remember that there is plenty of help at hand.
ROAD TO RECOVERY
The good news is that perinatal anxiety and depression can be treated with the right support and help, as well as a specialised treatment plan, which can include a balance of medication, counselling and lifestyle changes.
“A range of factors contribute to perinatal anxiety and depression – biological, psychological and social. Treatment depends on the severity of the illness and will be targeted to the specific concerns being faced,” Jenni says. “From a parenting perspective it is really hard finding patience, desire and capacity to connect when you’re feeling anxious and depressed. Feeling agitated, unsettled or lacking in motivation are all really tricky places to parent from.” Creating new connections when feeling isolated, ensuring the safety of mum and bub, and supporting parents through therapy can help assuage parenting fears or anxieties.
WHERE TO GO FOR HELP
PANDA helpline counsellors speak with expecting and new parents every day about managing anxiety or depression during pregnancy or with a baby. “If you are worried about your partner, family member or friend, approach the subject with sensitivity and concern. The first step in help-seeking is the hardest,” Jenni says. Approach a nurse, GP or health professional or call the PANDA hotline (1300 726 306, weekdays from 10am-5pm).