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Adjusting to the challenges of parenthood

First-time pregnancy and parenthood is a time of great change. It is common for new parents to experience a range of emotions, both positive and negative, in response to these changes.

Mum breastfeeding on the couch

Many people find that pregnancy or having a baby is more challenging than they anticipated – this is a common experience of re-adjustment.

For some however, the challenges become overwhelming. When this occurs, it is important to seek help. There are a range of health and community services that can assist you and there are many things that can be done, on a personal level, to reduce stress.

Challenges faced by new parents

  • Exhaustion while adapting to a demanding sleep/feed schedule
  • Physical demands of breastfeeding – pain associated with latching-on, cracked nipples and mastitis
  • Recovery from birth whilst caring for a newborn
  • The demands of running a household while managing your own and baby’s needs
  • Lack of confidence in your ability to understand baby’s needs
  • Navigating the expectations and advice of family and friends
  • Change to your personal identity – this can include loss of your work role and status; loss of social life, loss of sense of freedom
  • Change in your relationship with your partner – this can include negotiating differing ideas on how to care for baby; changes in attitude and needs towards physical intimacy
  • Change in family dynamics with the addition of another baby.

Asking for help

Many people have trouble asking for help. You may feel shame because you aren't coping with their new baby, or guilt because you feel frustrated and resentful.

Recognise that the arrival of a baby can trigger many complex thoughts and feelings including a sense of loss for your ‘old’ self or life. We encourage you to recognise and acknowledge both the joy and distress that can be experienced; and we help new parents and their families work through the more difficult emotions.

“It is common for new parents to experience a range of emotions, both positive and negative, in response to the challenges of new parenthood.”

What can help

  • Keep realistic expectations – resist media representations of parenting
  • Try not to be swamped by parenting information. Trust that you are learning how to best look after your baby. This takes time
  • Allow yourself time to learn through experience. Don’t judge yourself harshly against others’ expectations
  • Have one or two trusted sources of independent information – a GP, a child health nurse, a supportive and non-judgemental friend or family member
  • Take care of your own health; it is just as important as your baby’s
  • Try to arrange some time out for yourself.

Support in the Community

You can find information about health services, support services and networks, and activities for new parents through the PANDA website or Helpline. These include:

  • Local playgroups
  • Parenting skills and support programs
  • Counselling services
  • Mental health services
  • In-home support services
  • Home assistance and nanny services
  • Complementary health services
  • Maternal and child health clinics
  • Support, information and peer services for the LGBTIQ community
  • Young parents’ support groups
  • Information for new parents from diverse cultural backgrounds
  • Aboriginal andTorres Strait Islander services.


Adjusting to the challenges of parenthood
Mental health in early parenthood and pregnancy

all stories
PANDA National Helpline

Find someone to talk to, Monday to Saturday.

1300 726 306

Call 000 for police and ambulance if you or someone else are in immediate danger

Talk with friends or family

Consider talking about how you are feeling with someone you trust. This might be a friend or family member. Once you starting talking you might be surprised at how many others have had similar experiences and the support they can provide you.

Talk with your doctor

Talking with your doctor can be an important step to getting the help you need. They should be able to give you non-judgemental support, assessment, diagnosis, and ongoing care and treatment. They can also refer you to specialists such as a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.

Get help now

If you are having suicidal thoughts or are feeling disorientated it’s important to get help immediately. PANDA is not a crisis service, if you need immediate support call Lifeline 13 11 14 (24/7).

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Everyone’s experience of pregnancy, birth and parenting is unique and brings different rewards and challenges. Our mental health checklist can help you to see if what you’re experiencing or observing in a loved one could be a reason to seek help.