Perinatal anxiety and depression can affect 1 in 5 expecting or new mums and 1 in 10 expecting or new dads – this is huge and hopefully an opening line that helps you realise you are not alone in suffering from this illness if you are noticing some of the symptoms associated with perinatal anxiety and depression.
The tricky part about realising you may have anxiety and depression at this time in your life, is that a lot of the symptoms are what you’d expect – feeling tired; anxious about your baby; emotional – these are all very common feelings to experience as a new parent.
If you are unsure whether you or a loved one is at a point where external help would be beneficial, the PANDA website (www.panda.org.au) has some great resources to help connect and point you in the right direction. Simple checklists where you answer a list of questions can help shine some light on the gravity of the situation.
Questions directly to the person concerned can provide an opening for them to bring up what they may be feeling: “It’s pretty relentless, caring for a baby day and night. How are you going with it all?” or “Is this period going as you thought it would?” or “Having a new baby is such a big change. How’s that going for you?”*
So, what do we do if we suspect someone may be suffering from Perinatal Anxiety and Depression?
Simply listening and validating can be hugely helpful, rather than jumping straight to solutions. Pausing before responding and allowing some silence or giving gentle non-verbal feedback can help delay our natural instinct to offer up words of advice.
Asking them what they think may be helpful right now, can be a good way to open lines of communication regarding seeking outside help. For example; “Do you have a sense of what might be most helpful right now?” or “Do you have a GP you can talk to about your mental health?” or “It sounds like things have been tough for a while and you want something to change. Would it be helpful to talk about support options?”
Or even referring them to the PANDA website – “ I’ve heard about this website that has heaps of advice for new and expecting mums and dads, maybe you could have a browse on there to see if you come across anything helpful?”
Remember that dads and families too can be affected by perinatal anxiety and depression and that this can occur anywhere from the expecting stage to a year after birth. Also, that it is SO common to experience mental health issues at this huge time of life and that it doesn’t make you a bad parent.
If you want to read more about Perinatal Anxiety and Depression, try some checklists for yourself or a loved one or access some resources to help with this stage of your life – head to www.panda.org.au.
Remember too that we have an amazing team of approachable physios who you may already be comfortable enough voicing these concerns to or, alternatively, if you don’t know us yet- having a person you don’t quite know to chat to about everything you may be feeling can also be helpful.
*Information sourced from PANDA website – 6 approaches for your practise toolbox