It is normal to experience a degree of anxiety and ‘ups and downs’ when expecting a baby.
But some new parents develop more pronounced feelings of stress or lower mood than others — and the thing is, that’s perfectly normal as well.
More than 100,000 Australian parents are affected by perinatal depression or anxiety (PNDA) each year and yet many still fail to recognise that what they are experiencing is not only incredibly common, but that there is help available.
We spoke to Terri Smith, the CEO of Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia (PANDA), to find out what the warning signs are and what to do if you spot them in someone you love.
She explained that the first signs were usually changes in mood or behaviour that last longer than two weeks, such as a very low mood, a flatness, sense of hopelessness or fatigue or, alternatively, you might notice anxiety, characterised by a high mood, frustration, anger and irritation.
“If those symptoms go on for more than two weeks, it’s important to seek help,” Ms Smith told Mamamia.
“The sooner someone seeks help the sooner they can start their journey to recovery.”
The second thing to be aware of are the physical symptoms, which can vary but also manifest differently for sufferers of anxiety, as compared to those with depression.
For depression they include:
Constant sadness or crying, withdrawal from family, fear of being alone with the baby, even thoughts of harming themselves or their baby the tougher end of their illness.
For anxiety they are:
Panic attacks, a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath , shaking, feeling detached, generalised worry or fears for the health and well being of their baby that may seems a little over the top, mood swings and obsessive of compulsive behaviours, such as continually cleaning or checking that the baby is safe.
Referring to data from PANDA’s help line, Ms Smith said that more than 60% of people who called had had symptoms for over a month — 15% said they had waited a year to get help.
“It’s normal to have a bad day, or a couple of bad days; it’s not normal for two weeks go by and someone to not to be able to get up, talk to friends or to do those daily things.”