Where Do I Start?
It’s very common to feel overwhelmed, anxious and stressed during pregnancy or when looking after a new baby. It can also lead to many positive feelings. It is going to be one of the biggest changes in your life and one that we are often totally unprepared for. The first year after having a baby is also a time of great change, not only to your identity but also to your relationships. It’s helpful to take a breath and pause for a moment and let it all sink in, allowing yourself time to settle into your new life as a parent. It takes time to adjust and also to get to know your baby and learn to manage your new life.
Talking to other parents or trusted friends and family can be helpful if you need to debrief or just to have someone listen to you to lessen the isolation and feel supported. Choosing someone who is non-judgemental and you can be honest with is a good start. Often offloading fears and frustrations is all that is needed. Sometimes emotional and practical support can help as well to lighten the load. There are also some helpful online sources of peer support for extra support such as the Gidget Virtual Village.
However, if support from friends and family is not enough, there are many health professionals whom you can turn to eg: your local GP or early childhood nurse. It is common for new and expectant mums and dads to experience a range of worries and coupled with sleep deprivation, it can all feel overwhelming.
If your anxieties don’t settle in a few weeks and you feel a low mood creeping in and nothing is helping alleviate those feelings, then maybe it is time to reach out and start talking to someone who can help you access further specialised help. As well as those mentioned above you could also try your Midwife or Obstetrician.
Accessing this help for perinatal depression and anxiety can feel daunting and sometimes difficult. There is also a stigma surrounding mental health but those health professionals in this area know how hard it can be and know that these anxious and depressive feelings can be treated, and the earlier the better. Being referred to a counsellor, psychologist or a psychiatrist can be a very helpful move to make and one that will help you adjust to this new life and be able to make the most of it.
Making the first approach to a professional is not always easy. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to ask a friend or relative to make the call for you and, ideally, take them along to the first appointment.
Sometimes expectant and new parents don’t seek help because:
– they may not realise they have a medical condition that can be treated
– many parents put on a mask, not being able to share their feelings
– many women are afraid of being labelled a ‘bad mother’
– diagnosis can prove difficult, especially if there is no ‘connection’ with the health professional or they are not experienced in the area
– prior negative experience with health professionals
– fear of having the baby taken away
– dads may feel bad saying how they are struggling too, given what their partner is managing
– dads also may feel like it is not masculine to talk about their feelings or maybe busy juggling work and family and don’t realise their own mental health is being affected
Taking all of this into account, it is worthwhile persevering and finding the right help. Research has consistently shown that parents who receive timely professional support have the best chances of recovering more quickly from perinatal depression and anxiety.
Professionals who can help with perinatal depression and anxiety:
– Child and Family Health Nurse
– General Practitioner
These health professionals can assess parent’s perinatal depression and anxiety and can refer to the following specialists if they require further support:
– Social Worker
– Specialist support groups
– Mental health nurses
For immediate support, please contact the PANDA National Helpline
PANDA National Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Helpline
1300 726 306
Mon to Fri, 9am – 7.30pm AEST
PANDA’s National Helpline is available to provide support and information to families experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression.
Callers are supported by someone who really understands how they are feeling and knows how to help them take the first step to recovery. Many of PANDA’s trained counsellors – a combination of professional staff and peer support volunteers – have experienced perinatal depression and anxiety themselves. You do not need a diagnosis of perinatal anxiety or depression to call PANDA. Partners, family members and friends supporting a loved one with perinatal depression and anxiety can also call PANDA’s National Helpline.
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