BLOG | 05 MAY 2022
Shining the light on perinatal depression and anxiety
Often as a therapist, your work life and personal life collide with similar themes. For me, the spotlight recently shone on all things parenting and baby related. My brother had a baby last year, as well as my very best friend from high school. Some of my long term clients are pregnant; or had ‘covid’ babies. And I have had the privilege of meeting new clients because of their challenging births or pregnancies; and the weeks and months that follow. No two stories are the same. All have had incredible highs and lows.
Our society and culture tell us that becoming a parent is supposed to be a joyous, happy, wondrous time. A milestone in your life; new beginnings; a blessing… And for many parents, this is for the most part true. No parenting journey is perfect, and nor should it be – there is so much to learn!! However, for a significant number of parents the adjustment to parenthood is absolutely debilitating; and when bad days become the norm, a parent may be experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA).
According to the very wonderful Gidget Foundation, PNDA will affect approximately 100,000 expectant or new parents in Australia each year. And according to research done by Beyond Blue, 1 in 10 women experience depression during pregnancy (antenatal), and antenatal anxiety is thought to be just as common. 1 in 6 women experience postnatal depression (in the year following the birth of their baby), 1 in 6 women experience postnatal anxiety. And 1 in 10 fathers experience postnatal depression.
Why does PNDA happen? So many factors; but all lead to the reason that when we are having a baby we are in a vulnerable state. Either hormonally, financially, socially, emotionally; as well as genetic and prior life experiences.
An episode of perinatal depression and anxiety can be mild, moderate, or severe. It is diagnosed when several of the following symptoms occur for more than 2 weeks, causing significant distress or impairment:
- Depressed mood, including feeling sad, empty or hopeless
- Crying for no apparent reason
- Panic Attack
- Obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest or pleasure in life
- Physical symptoms: (changes in appetite, headaches, sweaty palms, heart racing)
- Insomnia or excessive sleep
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Not feeling attached or bonded with your baby
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, feeling trapped
- Impaired concentration or indecisiveness
- Thoughts of death, self-harm or a suicide attempt
The above list is overwhelming; but often very hidden. Unfortunately, many mums and dads do not feel they can speak up about how they are feeling because they feel ashamed, confused or unsure of what is going on with their mental health.
The most important step is acknowledging if several of these symptoms are present. Please, seek help – either from your GP, midwife, local area health nurse/clinic, friends, family, websites, podcasts, psychologists, counsellors/social workers. PNDA is absolutely treatable and with support in place recovery can happen in time.
If you are someone close to you is suffering from PNDA the below are some incredible resources:
- Gidget Foundation Australia https://www.gidgetfoundation.org.au or
phone 1300 851 758
By marnie mears