Where Do I Start?
Do I have Postnatal Depression and Anxiety?
It’s very common to feel overwhelmed and stressed during pregnancy or when looking after a new baby, so it’s a good idea to have a conversation with a trusted person. Sometimes mothers and fathers can find help in supportive friends, relatives or health professionals.
Often offloading fears and frustrations is all that is needed. And a good listener can be a great sounded board, someone who might be able to help you work through how you’re really feeling. Sometimes emotional and practical support is all that is needed. However, if you are worried, make an appointment with your early childhood nurse or GP as they will have the professional skills to support you or refer you to further help if necessary.
Accessing this help for Postnatal Depression and Anxiety can be daunting and sometimes difficult. The best place to start if you are worried about your feelings is with a health professional you trust. This might mean making an appointment to speak with your GP, your Early Childhood Nurse, or your Midwife or Obstetrician.
Some parents find all they need is a conversation to validate their feelings and confirm that little babies can be exhausting work. Others may benefit more by being referred to a counsellor, psychologist or a psychiatrist.
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 parents don’t seek help because:
- they may not realise they have a problem that can be treated
- the stigma associated with mental health problems
- many parents hide behind masks, not even sharing their feelings with close friends
- many women are afraid of being labelled a ‘bad mother’
- diagnosis can prove difficult, especially if there is no ‘connection’ with the health professional
Despite this, it is worthwhile persevering and finding the right help. Research has consistently shown that parents who receive timely professional counselling have the best chances of recovering more quickly from antenatal and postnatal anxiety and depression.
Professionals who can help with Postnatal Depression and Anxiety include:
- Child and Family Health Nurse
- General Practitioner
These health professionals can assess parents for Postnatal Depression and can refer mothers and fathers to the following specialists if they require further support.
- Social Worker
- Specialist support groups
For parents who live in Sydney, Gidget House provides free psychological support for families experiencing emotional distress during pregnancy and early parenthood.
Friends and family can help support families in many ways.
Emotional support: Take time to listen and acknowledge how the mother is feeling. Don’t minimise her feelings or tell her ‘to snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’. Don’t try to ‘fix’ her by offering solutions. While the crippling feelings will eventually resolve, the sufferer may feel they will never end. Let her know that you will be there for the journey and that while recovery can be slow, there is hope and in time she will feel better. Find out as much as you can about this illness – you may also need support. Support the mother in her treatment. Reassure her that she is not a ‘bad’ mother. She has an illness for which there is treatment. Try to avoid making big decisions at this time.
Practical help: Provide some meals (either home cooked or take away), help with housework, e.g. ironing, offer to do some shopping. Looking after the baby for a while can make a big difference to struggling parents – enabling them the opportunity to rest / spend time with each other / go to a doctors appointment etc. Offer to go to any appointment with the mother or father.
Self care takes many forms and might include:
- First and foremost – Finding some time for yourself and some special time to share with your partner
- Meeting up with friends for a coffee
- A meal or a movie with your partner
- Having a haircut
- A dinner with friends
- Finding a group of mothers where you can spend time together and share your joys a well as your struggles.
For immediate help, please contact the 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 professional staff and peer support volunteers – have experienced perinatal anxiety and or depression themselves. You do not need a diagnosis of perinatal anxiety or depression to call PANDA. Partners, family member and or friends supporting a loved one with perinatal anxiety or depression can also call PANDA’s National Helpline.
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