It’s Perinatal Mental Health Week, and we couldn’t be happier. Not because it’s an upbeat topic, but because any opportunity to put the real pregnancy and postpartum experience in the spotlight is a good one in our books.
Because the more we talk about the challenges, the tough times and the unexpected aspects of this significant stage of life, the more new parents will feel seen, understood and supported. And that’s a good first step.
In a locked in world, over the past 12 months, PANDA (Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Australia) has seen:
- 51% increase in callers to PANDA's Helpline.
- 57% of callers are citing stressful life events as their reason for reaching out for help.
- More pregnant callers reaching out for help - 75% are either pregnant with their second or third child - and it’s important to recognise that perinatal mental illness happens during pregnancy as well as after babies are born.
- Significant increase in the number of callers with babies under 1 month of age (12% in 2019-20 to 26% in 2020-21).
And while the numbers may seem alarming, the PANDA crew sees this increase in demand as a positive step – because it shows more families are realising they need help and asking for it, rather than trying to manage alone.
According to PANDA, one of the trickiest things about experiencing depression and/or anxiety as a new or expecting parent is that many symptoms can look similar to what most people experience at this time, such as feeling tired, irritable, emotional or worrying about your baby’s health.
‘At PANDA we hear many new parents tell us that one of the greatest challenges they face is knowing what is ‘normal’ and what is not. This applies to understanding their own wellbeing as well as their baby’s. Many new parents believe high levels of distress or unhappiness is a normal part of being a new sleep-deprived parent. They are often told by well-meaning family and friends that feelings of exhaustion, worry or unhappiness are normal – when these feelings might in fact indicate postnatal anxiety or depression.
'I put any negative feelings down to hormones, I realise now that it went beyond the normal worry and stress of pregnancy. I found myself quickly all consumed by doubt and fear all the time.'
It is actually difficult to learn how to be a parent, and about the needs and behaviours of a new baby. Especially when you are feeling sore, exhausted and perhaps even distressed by your birth experience. If you are struggling to understand your thoughts or feelings and it is affecting your day-to-day activities it is important to seek support. In particular, if your symptoms last more than two weeks, we encourage you to seek help.’ - PANDA website
To help find out whether what you’re experiencing (or seeing in a loved one) might be a reason to seek help, hop onto PANDA’s quick and easy mental health checklist: https://www.panda.org.au/info-support/checklists