Pregnancy and parenthood is a time of great change, and it is commonly an exciting but challenging time for parents when they can experience a range of emotions. Difficulties adjusting are common, however some mums and dads will experience more pronounced anxiety and depression that will impact on their normal life and functioning, which is particularly challenging when they have a new baby to care for.
Up to 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men experience depression when they are expecting, and anxiety is just as common, with many experiencing both depression and anxiety. Postnatal depression is the name given to the type of depression that develops mostly between 1 month and a year following childbirth. In Australia, statistics show that postnatal depression affects 1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men, and rates of anxiety are even higher.
Many parents struggle with knowing what’s normal and what isn’t, in terms of their own mood symptoms and coping, as well as their baby’s wellbeing. Baby’s don’t come with a guide book, and for most parents it’s a huge adjustment, especially when they’re exhausted, recovering from the birth, or perhaps parenting older children too. Thankfully there are many supports and services available, and it’s important to know the signs and symptoms and to seek help early.
Symptoms of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression
The combination and severity of symptoms will be different for every parent, and can include:
- Very low moods and moodiness more generally
- Feelings of exhaustion, emptiness and sadness
- A sense of hopelessness about the future
- Feeling inadequate and a failure as a parent
- Feeling anxious and experiencing panic and stress
- Feelings of guilt, shame and worthlessness
- Worrying excessively about your pregnancy or baby
- Insomnia and trouble sleeping, or sleeping excessively
- Feeling scared to be alone or to go out
- Changes to or loss of appetite
- Lethargy and feeling unmotivated
- Worries about not being able to adequately look after your baby, or feeling scared of being alone with your baby
- Difficulty bonding with or feeling love for your baby
- Feelings of indifference or no sense of enjoyment in your baby, or in other things you normally enjoy
- Thoughts about harming yourself or your baby, thinking your partner or baby would be better off without you, wanting to end your life, or wanting to escape everything.
If these feelings have arisen and do not feel like they’re going away, professional help should be sought.
Treatment for Perinatal Depression & anxiety
Anxiety and depression experienced during pregnancy and after birth is temporary and treatable. We know that prevention and early intervention lead to faster recovery and better outcomes for the parent experiencing difficulties, their partner, their relationship, and of course for their baby.
At myLife Psychologists we are committed to supporting expecting and new parents develop joyful and confident parenting and attachment relationships with their children. We understand how difficult the transition to parenthood can be, and we love working with parents and families during this important stage of life. We work as a team with the referring GP, and we take a ‘whole family’ approach where the baby and partner are invited to attend.
To find out more or to make an appointment, contact us.