Peri­na­tal anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion can de­velop with new or ex­pec­tant par­ents. Know the warn­ing signs, and don’t be afraid to seek help

Mother & Baby (Australia) - - Contents -

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.


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,


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.


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.


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).

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