Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week runs from the 13th – 19th of November and aims to raise awareness, including identifying signs of the illness and where to go to seek support. Each individual’s experience of parenthood, including perinatal anxiety and depression, is different. However, with the correct treatment and support, new parents can make a full recovery.
Caring for someone with Perinatal Anxiety & Depression
Up to 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men struggle with antenatal depression. In addition, more than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression each year in Australia. Anxiety is thought to be as common and many parents experience anxiety and depression simultaneously. Caring for someone with perinatal depression or anxiety (either during pregnancy or after birth) can be confusing, stressful and demanding. The information below may help you look after yourself and those close to you.
Symptoms of Anxiety and Depression
The signs and symptoms can vary and may include:
- Panic attacks (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 wellbeing of baby
- The development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- Changes in appetite: under or overeating
- Sleep problems unrelated to the baby’s needs
- Extreme lethargy: feeling physically or emotionally overwhelmed and unable to cope with the demands of chores and looking after baby
- Memory problems or loss of concentration (‘brain fog’)
- Loss of confidence and lowered self esteem
- Constant sadness or crying
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Fear of being alone with baby
- Irritability and/or anger
- Increased alcohol or drug use
- Loss of interest in sex or previously enjoyed activities
- Intrusive thoughts of harm to self or baby, thoughts of death or suicide.
- Anxiety and depression are genuine illnesses. Try not to take any out of character behaviour personally;
- Focus on providing practical help and gentle emotional support. Be guided by the person you are supporting as to how much, and what sort of help, they need;
- Remember that you are the support person, but not the health professional. You don’t need to take responsibility for providing medical advice or making treatment decisions. Make sure that the person you’re caring for has a good medical team around them;
- It can help people with anxiety or depression to have someone they trust with them at medical appointments. Ask if they want or need this kind of help or someone to discuss treatment options with. Try not to be judgmental about their decisions, particularly those around medication;
- The best thing you can provide for your partner at this time is emotional support. Try to be gentle and encouraging;
- Remember that the symptoms your partner is experiencing are due to illness rather than faults in your relationship;
- Now is not the best time to make big life decisions about things like your relationship, career or your house;
- Looking after yourself and your own health is really important and will help you be the best support for your partner;
- Accept offers of help from family or friends.
Getting Help and Support
- If you are worried about your partner, family member or friend, encourage them to talk with their GP, midwife, obstetrician, child health nurse or call the PANDA Helpline on 1300 726 306 (Mon – Fri: 10am – 5pm AEST);
- Partners and carers can also call the PANDA Helpline. Having support in your role as a carer is important;
- If you are worried about the safety of someone close to you please do not leave them alone. Stay with them and seek medical help via a GP, mental health team or local hospital. You can phone 000 if you are concerned about their immediate safety.