Every day we hear callers to our national helpline say “It’s hard”.
There’s one thing that’s clear from listening to the mums and dads who call our helpline every day – and it’s that the transition into parenthood isn’t all black and white.
Not everyone thrives in the new role as mum or dad – and that’s OK as it’s a massive adjustment in so many different ways. Everyone’s journey to parenthood and early experience of it is different and unique.
Many new parents struggle to identify with what they’re feeling and for some it’s not as clear-cut as the more well-known symptoms of postnatal depression.
With that being said, this year the word ‘anxiety’ has been added to Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness week (15 – 21 Nov), as well as changing of the word postnatal to perinatal. This is because we now understand that anxiety is as equally prevalent and debilitating as depression, and it’s not just new parents that are affected but also parents-to-be.
Anxiety can be tough to identify because the signs may not be as clear as depression – so parents often second guess themselves and think that what they are feeling must be part of parenthood. This is something we hear a lot. Phrases like “I didn’t realise anxiety was a real issue” and “I thought what I was feeling must have been normal” are common on the helpline.
The reasons that anxiety can be brought on are so varied – it might relate to how how you feel about leaving work, worry relating to how your relationships might change, or may be to do with struggles while breastfeeding or a birthing experience that didn’t go as planned. And sometimes, a reason isn’t even identifiable.
Some of the signs of perinatal anxiety and depression include: panic attacks, persistent worrying, abrupt mood swings, not wanting to socialise, a feeling of constant sadness or hopelessness and/or feeling like you can’t cope with caring for the baby.
If you have a persistent, niggling feeling that something isn’t right, or an overwhelming feeling that you’re not coping – then we encourage you to take the first step and talk to someone – even if it’s just a partner or trusted friend in the first instance.
You can also consider talking to your GP, another health professional you feel comfortable with or call the Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA) National Helpline. We know early intervention can bring relief sooner and that’s good for you and for your baby. We hear callers to the helpline saying they feel hopeless, embarrassed or ashamed, but the helpline is a space where conversations about early parenting challenges and mental health are encouraged and heard without judgment. We’re here to listen and to help.
Remember – you are not alone and there are people who can help, even if it’s just for a chat to help you clarify your thoughts and feelings.
It’s Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness Week and Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) encourages all Australian’s to start open and honest conversations about parenthood. In Australia 1 in 10 mums and 1 in 20 dads struggle with anxiety or depression during pregnancy. This rises to 1 in 7 mums and 1 in 10 dads after birth, with many parents suffering in silence.
If you know a new parent, take a moment this week to check in with them and ask how they are going. Parenthood can be really tough and parents need to know that it’s OK to reach out for help. For support, please call PANDA’s National Helpline on 1300 726 306 Mon-Fri 10-5pm AEST or visit www.panda.org.au.