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Storytime: Perinatal Anxiety & Depression

If you need immediate help call PANDA on 1300 726 306 (Mon-Fri, 9am-7:30pm AEST/AEDT) or Beyond Blue at anytime on 1300 22 4636


Did you know that perinatal anxiety and depression is a serious illness that affects up to 1 in 5 expecting or new mums, and 1 in 10 expecting or new dads? Postnatal depression can also occur between 1 month and up to 1 year after the birth of a baby.

To recognise Perinatal depression and anxiety awareness week, we asked our Practice Manager, Sarah, about her experiences and what we should look out for.


Sarah’s Story

You imagine that when you first meet your baby that you will be filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and love. For some, this may be true, but for me, it was not the case. Despite the huge amount of research I did beforehand, I had not prepared myself for this to be my reality. I didn’t feel like I was bonding with my baby. I didn’t want to leave the house, anxious that my baby would make a scene in public and I would be judged for it.

We also had issues with breastfeeding. The decision to stop trying was incredibly hard, but it meant my baby went from a banshee to a contented little dude. Even still, there was an immense sense of guilt and shame for not succeeding, that I had failed as a mother. ‘Breast is best’ was all I heard from the hospital, midwives etc which exacerbated the problem for me. Some even argue that this mentality is causing mothers undue harm (you can read about that here) I had an immense fear of judgement which caused me to avoid things like mother’s groups.

I felt really down and it looked to be more than just the ‘baby blues’ at play. Thankfully, my husband, Mum and sister saw the signs and took me along to my GP. I was able to get a referral to the Raphael Centre here in Geelong. Working with my psychologist there I was able to work through a lot of the issues and come out the other side.


What is the difference between ‘baby blues’ and anxiety/depression?

It is not uncommon for women to experience the ‘baby blues’ in the first few days after birth. This is generally not considered a mental health concern that requires treatment. The ‘baby blues’ usually resolve after a few days. If you are still feeling these symptoms more than a couple of weeks after giving birth, it may be wise to visit your GP.


How do you know if you have perinatal anxiety or depression?

Sometimes it is hard to differentiate between just being a tired and overwhelmed new parent, but according to PANDA they can vary but may include

  • Panic attacks (eg, racing heart, shaking, feeling physically ‘detached’ from your surroundings)
  • Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on the wellbeing of the baby
  • Abrupt mood swings
  • Feeling constantly sad, low, or crying for no obvious reason.
  • Feeling nervous or on edge
  • Sleep problems not relating to the baby’s needs
  • Extreme lethargy – feeling physically or emotionally overwhelmed and unable to cope.
  • Constant sadness or crying
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Fear of being alone with the baby


Don’t forget about Dad

It is common for Dads to experience depression and anxiety during pregnancy and after the birth of their baby. Many of the symptoms listed above can also be present if Dad is experiencing perinatal anxiety or depression.


What can you do?

Talk to your GP. There is no shame around telling someone how you feel, and it is surprisingly common. You may be eligible for a mental health care plan and referred to a psychologist. It is also ok to talk to those around you about how you feel. You may be surprised to find that there are a lot of people who feel the same, but have not talked about their feelings, thinking that no-one else feels the same.


Tips for looking after yourself

  • You are important! To be the best parent to your child, you need to take care of yourself too. 
  • Having a baby brings a lot of changes. There will be an adjustment period so don’t bee too hard on yourself. 
  • Talk to a trusted family member or friend. As they say, a problem shared is a problem halved. Maybe they have a suggestion you may not have thought of, maybe they can look after the baby while you take a leisurely shower, or something similar to make you feel more ‘you’.
  • Get out of the house if you can. Just a quick walk around the block with bubs or meeting a friend for coffee gives a wonderful change of scenery.
  • Make a list of things that you enjoy and give you a sense of wellbeing. It could be a hobby, getting your nails done, making art, getting a massage. While you may not get to do them right away, having that list will be a good memory cue for when the time is right. Writing this list pre-birth is also super helpful!
  • Don’t forget that the birth of a newborn has also brought with it ‘newborn’ parents. Give yourself a chance to learn!


If you need immediate help call PANDA on 1300 726 306 (Mon-Fri, 9am-7:30pm AEST/AEDT) or Beyond Blue at anytime on 1300 22 4636