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Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week

I once heard someone quote Charles Dickens when referring to parenthood: “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. I really resonated with this quote as applied to parenthood. Indeed, for me my “worst of times” seemed to be consolidated in the first year of parenthood! Welcoming a new baby, whether it be the first or the fifth, brings with it massive change and change brings both things to be celebrated and things to be grieved. For many, the transition is smooth, for others there are a few bumps in the road. Some, like myself, find it more challenging, and there are those for whom mental health concerns are very real. About 1 in 7 Mums and 1 in 10 Dads, for example, experience postnatal depression. The figure for parents experiencing postnatal anxiety is thought to be even higher.

This week, the 13th to 19th November, is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week. PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia) established Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week in 2005 in order to raise awareness about mental health during the perinatal period, including what to look out for and where to seek support. While it is normal to experience changes in mood during pregnancy and/or early parenthood, often referred to as the “baby blues”, there are things to look out for that may signal the development of depression or anxiety.

Signs that depression may be developing include:

  • low mood
  • feelings of low self-worth
  • irritability, anger or anxiety
  • increased crying, often for no reason
  • loss of interest in activities which were previously considered enjoyable
  • changes to eating and sleeping patterns
  • loss of motivation and excessive fatigue
  • difficulty concentrating/confusion
  • social isolation
  • thoughts of self-harm

 

Indicators of anxiety include:

  • feeling stressed, or constantly being on edge
  • muscle tension
  • difficulty staying calm
  • sleep disturbances
  • constant, recurrent worry

There are number of things you can do to take care of yourself during the perinatal period. Some ideas include:

  • eating a healthy diet and exercising
  • avoiding alcohol and drugs
  • resting whenever possible (e.g. when baby sleeps)
  • remembering that there is no one right way of parenting
  • asking for help and accepting it when it is offered
  • socialising and taking time for yourself when possible, and
  • avoiding major life changes in late pregnancy and early parenthood.

If you have experienced mental health concerns in the past, can I encourage you to be proactive and seek support early? Similarly, if you do notice the signs listed above developing seek professional advice early. A good first port of call is your local doctor (GP) or Child Health Nurse. They will be able to provide access to further support options. PANDA also have a national helpline (1300 726 306) that will be able to provide a listening ear and suggestions for ongoing support. Further information about Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Week can be accessed at: http://www.panda.org.au/get-involved/panda-events/pnda-awareness-week and https://wayahead.org.au/parenting/perinatal-depression-and-anxiety/

Information about signs to look out for and self-care have been sourced from the booklet ‘Mental Health During Pregnancy and Early Parenthood’ downloadable from https://wayahead.org.au/parenting/perinatal-depression-and-anxiety/

Thank you to psychologist Rebecca Yin Foo for this information

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