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PANDA: Finding Parental Support This Perinatal Mental Health Week

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

We are joining families and organisations across Australia to mark Perinatal Mental Health Week 6 - 12 November. PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia) has chosen "building your community of care" as this year's theme.


Did you know, 1 in 5 new mums and 1 in 10 new dads experience perinatal depression and anxiety, which is around 100,000 Australian parents each year? Perinatal Mental Health Week is a time to raise awareness to ensure that all parents know that they are not alone.


Together we can join forces to create a society where perinatal mental health is valued, and understood and where stigma and systemic barriers to seeking help no longer exist because every parent deserves support.


One of the best ways we can support our community is by sharing information about what perinatal anxiety and depression look like and to let you know that reaching out for support is the bravest thing you can do for yourself and your family.


Antenatal anxiety and depression

When anxiety or depression occurs during pregnancy it is referred to as antenatal anxiety or antenatal depression. Up to 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men experience antenatal depression. The figures are even starker in parents after the birth of a baby. More than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression each year in Australia. Anxiety is just as common, both during pregnancy and postnatally, and many expecting and new parents experience anxiety and depression at the same time. It is normal to experience a degree of anxiety and ‘ups and downs’ when expecting a baby and in the first 12 months. However, some people develop a more pronounced anxiety or lower mood (depression) which affects their daily life and functioning. There are treatments, supports and services available to help you through this experience. If symptoms last for more than two weeks, it’s generally understood that it’s time to seek support.


Anxiety and depression symptoms

• Panic attacks (a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or feeling physically ‘detached’ from your surroundings)

• Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on fears for the health or well-being of your baby

• The development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours

• Abrupt mood swings

• Feeling constantly sad, low, or crying for no obvious reason

• Being nervous, ‘on edge’, or panicky

• Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy

• Having little or no interest in all the normal things that bring joy (like time with friends, exercise, eating, or sharing partner time)

• Sleeping too much or not sleeping very well at all, even when the baby is asleep

• Losing interest in sex or intimacy

• Withdrawing from friends and family

• Being easily annoyed or irritated

• Finding it difficult to focus, concentrate or remember (people with depression often describe this as a ‘brain fog’)

• Engaging in more risk-taking behaviour (e.g. alcohol or drug use)

• Having thoughts of death or suicide.


Anxiety and depression thoughts

Although the experience of antenatal anxiety and depression will be different for everyone, some common feelings and thoughts expressed by expecting parents include:


• “I’m not supposed to feel like this. Pregnancy is supposed to be a time of great happiness, so why am I so miserable?”

• “I felt numb and lacking emotional connection and it scared me.”

• “I couldn’t do anything. I found it hard even to leave the house, I felt so down.”

• “My whole relationship with my body changed, and I hated it.”


Parenting with anxiety and depression

Parents who have postnatal anxiety or depression may describe some of the following experiences and thoughts:


• Anger or guilt about not having ‘normal’ feelings of maternal or paternal love

• Confusion or frustration about feeling low during a time when everyone is saying, “You must be so happy!”

• Being overwhelmed or confused by the advice or opinions of doctors, family or friends about how to manage their baby

• Wondering if their relationship with their partner will ever be the same

• Resenting physical changes to their bodies after childbirth and motherhood (“I was just a mum in some puked-on dressing gown, day in and day out”).


Contributing factors of perinatal anxiety and depression

There are many factors that can contribute to developing perinatal anxiety and depression which include:


• History of anxiety and depression

• Family history of mental Illness

• Previous reproductive loss (infertility, IVF, miscarriage, termination, stillbirth, death of a baby)

• Birth trauma

• Premature or sick baby

• Challenges with feeding and settling

• Sleep deprivation

• Pre-existing physical illness

• Financial stress

• Relationship stress.


Perinatal support

• Confide in your partner, trusted friend or family member

• Let your GP or other trusted health professional know what you're experiencing

• Talk to other parents who have recovered from perinatal anxiety and depression

• Call the PANDA Helpline to talk about your thoughts and feelings and explore options for support at 1300 726 306


PANDA has some amazing resources and a fantastic short mental health list on their website www.panda.org.au


Perinatal mental health information is taken from: PANDA Anxiety & Depression in Pregnancy & Early Parenthood Fact Sheet PANDA website.


Elevate your parenting skills with valuable insights and knowledge by exploring our range of informative masterclasses held by leading health and medical experts.

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