For many new mothers, the “baby blues” can seem all too familiar. And while it’s not uncommon for women to experience feelings of anxiety and depression in the first few weeks after birth, if symptoms persist — or if they occur during pregnancy — it’s important to seek help.
According to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA), 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men experience depression during pregnancy, and more than 1 in 7 new mums, and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression. Therefore, it’s safe to say this condition affects a large number of new and expectant parents.
We spoke to Terri Smith, CEO of PANDA about common symptoms to look out for, and how to tackle them head-on.
Listen to her full interview:
Tips to recognise and beat perinatal anxiety and depression
1. Planning: expectations vs reality
Often hopes and preconceptions about parenthood can differ drastically from reality. It’s important to accept that even your best laid plans may need some tweaking and the ability to accept change can help overcome some of the social, and personal, pressures around parenting. For example, there’s an expectation that women glow during pregnancy, but some may feel quite the opposite. And some new mums may want to breastfeed their babies, but are unable to when the time comes.
2. Know the risk factors
According to PANDA, people are more likely to experience perinatal depression and anxiety if mental illness runs in the family. Prior experiences of grief and loss — such as a miscarriage, a termination or a stillbirth — can also be risk factors for perinatal depression and anxiety.
3. Recognise the symptoms
Symptoms of anxiety and depression can include panic attacks, heart palpitations, excessive worrying, obsessive behaviours, abrupt mood swings, constant sadness or crying, and extreme lethargy. People may also experience an inability to sleep when their baby is sleeping because they’re worrying or feeling overwhelmed by emotions.
4. Don’t be afraid to seek or offer help
Many women and men don’t recognise symptoms of perinatal depression and anxiety, or are too afraid to seek help. Even though it can be difficult to talk about mental health, it’s incredibly important to share how you’re feeling with your partner, a trusted friend or family member, and to seek help from your GP or health professional so that you can recover more quickly.
For more information on family health, visit Better Families.