Sometimes the challenges of being a new parent leave you feeling exhausted. Many new parentsexperience some trouble adjusting to parenthood. Yet a big dip in your mental health at this time can seriously affect your ability to function in daily life and to look after yourself and your baby.
If your thoughts and feelings are worrying you, affecting your daily function or stopping you from enjoying life, you may be experiencing symptoms of postnatal anxiety or depression. This is nothing to be ashamed of, as postnatal mental health concerns are common.
“You’re not a burden. Everyone deserves help. It doesn’t matter how minor or major you think things are. Everyone deserves it. So take help if it’s there. Don’t think you’re not worthy of help.”
Postnatal anxiety and depression: Everyone is different
We know that people experience changes to their postnatal mental health in different ways – everyone's experience is unique.The way your mental health is affected after becoming a parent can depend on a range of factors.
Your own genetics and unique emotional, mental and physical traits may play a part, plus external factors like your:
- Birth experience, especially if it was traumatic
- Stressful life situations can have an impact too.
There are also different degrees of postnatal mental ill-health. Some people experience mild postnatal anxiety or depression, while others have more severe symptoms including postnatal psychosis (link). No matter how unwell you feel, postnatal mental health concerns can affect your enjoyment of being a new parent, your bond with your baby and your ability to function in daily life.
You don’t have to manage everything alone though. The sooner you seek help by talking to someone, the quicker you can begin treatment and start feeling better.
The mild to severe range of postnatal anxiety and depression symptoms means there is no one-size-fits-all approach to mental health recovery. This means:
- Everyone responds to treatment differently.
- What works well for someone else may not be the best care plan for you.
- Your recovery plan will be personalised and adapted to meet your individual needs as a person and a new parent.
- Your voice matters. You’re the expert on your own life, and your care team will consult you about what might work best for you.
If you’re a new parent worried about your emotional and mental wellbeing, it’s important to seek support from a trusted health professional.
We recommend you see your doctor first, but it’s also a great idea to speak with other health professionals like your maternal and child health nurse for information and advice.
“Asking for help had been so hard for me to do. But once I let go of that need to be perfect and in control and asked for help, I was actually able to take back control of my life.”
Your doctor can help you understand what’s happening and discuss the best treatment options for you. These might include:
- Peer supports (eg. virtual courses and peer groups)
- Information and access to perinatal mental health resources
It’s also important for your doctor to rule out the possibility of any other physical conditions. Low iron, vitamin deficiencies or thyroid problems are some issues may contribute to feelings of depression, anxiety, low energy or lack of motivation. Worrisome thoughts and feelings can resolve if identified and treated.
Please remember that if you don’t feel heard by your health professional or you’re not satisfied with the advice and treatment you receive, it’s always worth seeking a second opinion.
If you’re in any doubt, call the PANDA National Helpline. Our telephone counsellors will listen carefully to your concerns and explore pathways to care with you, including additional referral options if you need them.
Concerned about medication? Try to be as informed as possible.
Some people feel concerned or fearful about taking medications for mental health, like anti-anxiety meds or antidepressants. It’s natural to have concerns about possible side effects and how long you might need to take medication. People may also feel uncertain or think that there’s something wrong or shameful about taking medication for mental health due to misconceptions and stigma.
Stigma is judging others or yourself as though there’s something wrong with taking medication to feel better – when really there is absolutely nothing to hide or be ashamed of.Sometimes there’s stigma about taking medications for mental health as well, from friends, family, or beliefs you have that come from your background and culture.
“I was initially against taking medication, especially as I was still breastfeeding. They presented to me research done by the hospital to demonstrate the amount of medication that would be transferred. They prescribed the medication and I started taking it and within a few weeks my mindset started to improve.”
It’s normal to feel uneasy – you want the best for yourself and your baby. We encourage you to get as much information as possible about the medication that is being recommended to you. It’s important this information comes from a trusted professional source who has experience with medications for mental health, like your doctor or psychiatrist.
Expert advice on medication use in the perinatal period can also be obtained from Medications Information Helplines which are available in each state.
We discourage you from seeking information about medications from unreliable sources on the internet.