Pregnancy and childbirth are times of intense emotions, and you are likely to experience many ups and downs. So, how do you know when it’s just the “baby blues”, or something more serious? It’s important to be aware of the distinction, as you may be experiencing perinatal anxiety or depression (or both), which needs to be addressed as soon as possible to prevent serious mental health problems.
Below are some signs that you, or someone you care about, may be experiencing perinatal anxiety or depression, as well as some avenues for help.
What is perinatal anxiety and depression?
One in five women will likely experience anxiety, depression, or both during the perinatal period (from conception to twelve months following birth, covering both anti and post-natal phases). Fathers can also experience anxiety or mental health problems during this time. People with perinatal anxiety and depression may have pre-existing mental health conditions (that often get worse during this time), but this might also be your first experience with depression or anxiety (or both).
Difference between the “Baby Blues” and post-natal depression:
The “Baby blues” is experienced by many new mothers. It occurs when levels of estrogen and progesterone drop dramatically within 48 hours of childbirth, and you may begin to feel sad, anxious, irritable, and extremely tired, or you may experience insomnia. These symptoms are amplified by the challenges of being a new parent, and the fact you are recovering from the physical stress of giving birth, which can come with complications. This is all normal, and usually passes within a couple of weeks – aside from the ongoing lack of sleep due to having a new baby. However, if you feel this way for longer than two weeks and it starts to affect your daily life, then you may be experiencing post-natal anxiety or depression.
Below are some signs to look out for, from conception onwards, as well as some ways to seek help.
Signs of Perinatal anxiety and depression (during pregnancy or after birth):
- Constantly feeling irritable
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Not wanting to leave the house
- Experiencing ongoing panic, or panic attacks
- Constant worrying – about your life and/or about the baby
- Constant mood swings
- Feel hopeless about life, or thinking you are ‘failing’
- Not being able to feel joy in anything (even after a good sleep)
- Developing obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- Using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism
- Not communicating with friends or family
- Feeling like you are not being a ‘good’ parent
- Not practising adequate self-care – such as not showering, or not eating enough
- Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby.
It’s important that you don’t blame yourself for the way you are feeling. Remember that perinatal anxiety and depression are both common and that, as with any health issue, the first step towards getting better is to reach out for help.
Talk to your midwife or a GP. A healthcare professional can properly diagnose your condition and help you manage it. Aim to seek help as early as possible – for you and for your family. Below are some organisations that can assist you and your family with information and counselling – before, during and after your pregnancy.
Perinatal support services:
https://www.panda.org.au/: Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia: helpline & digital support
https://www.pregnancybirthbaby.org.au/: Pregnancy, birth and baby helpline
https://www.cope.org.au/about/about/: Centre of perinatal excellence
If you or someone you know needs support, please reach out to one of our counselling services.
Our professional counsellors are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.