Becoming a parent, whether it’s the first time or 5th time, is supposed to be a happy occasion. But what happens when it isn’t? When you don’t feel any connection to your pregnancy or baby? When you feel on edge or anxious for no apparent reason? Or when you find yourself withdrawing from people and activities you, up until recently, enjoyed? Sure, pregnancy and parenthood are filled with ups and downs, that’s normal, but when it starts impacting on your daily life and the way you function, it’s time to seek help.
Perinatal anxiety and depression affects around 100,000 families every year in Australia. Perinatal refers to the pregnancy and first 12 months following the birth. It can be broken down into Antenatal (during pregnancy) and Postnatal/Postpartum (within the first 12 months). While around 80% of new parents experience normal ups and downs during pregnancy and in the first year following the birth of a baby, any negative thoughts or feelings that last longer than 2 weeks and affect your daily life and functioning should be assessed by a medical professional.
So what are the signs to look out for?
Antenatal Depression and Anxiety
Antenatal Depression affects around 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men. Antenatal anxiety affects around the same amount, and generally the two go hand in hand.
Postnatal Depression and Anxiety
Postnatal (or Postpartum) Depression affects around 1 in 7 new mothers and 1 in 10 new fathers. Again, Postnatal Anxiety affects around the same number of new parents and generally the two go hand in hand.
There are many factors that can contribute to Perinatal Depression and Anxiety. At some stage during your pregnancy, your care provider will probably ask you questions to see if there are any indications you may be at risk of developing a perinatal mental health issue. This is usually repeated following the birth of your baby. This is usually done with what is called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (you can read more about it here). Remember, this is not a diagnosis, but a tool to assist your care provider in providing the correct support and referrals if needed. Factors that may contribute to Perinatal Depression and Anxiety include;
Admitting something is wrong is hard. Taking the step to seek help can be even harder. Remember, it is ok not to be ok. It doesn’t make you a bad parent; it doesn’t mean you have failed. Fortunately, there are many ways to initiate getting help and treatment; you don’t have to do it alone:
If you are concerned about someone close to you, there are ways in which you can let them know you are there for them;
With time, the right support and treatment, a full recovery is likely. It is important to remember that you are not alone. You are not weak. You are not failing.
You are strong. You are brave. You are worthy. You are loved.