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Perinatal Depression

Perinatal Depression

This week, 17th - 23rd of November 2013, is Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week. Perinatal may be an unfamiliar term for some people but it refers to the period from conception through to 12 months after the birth of a baby. The perinatal period is considered to be a time of transition in life, which is wonderful and exciting but where families are also challenged and vulnerable to stress. The community often associates perinatal depression and anxiety with women but the truth is men may also suffer from it.

As parents or parents-to-be it is really important that you look after yourself so that you are able to care for someone else, your baby. Over this week consider how you have been feeling recently. Have you felt any of the following:

  • Loss of enjoyment in activities you would usually enjoy
  • Loss of self-esteem and confidence
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed, out of control or unable to cope
  • Irritability or anger
  • Fear of being alone
  • Withdrawing from family or friends
  • Loss of appetite
  • Broken sleep (other than the baby waking you)
  • Sense of hopelessness or feeling of failure
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideas
  • Anxiety symptoms (acing heart, changes to breathing, worrying thoughts, sick stomach)
  • Fears for baby’s or partners’s safety or wellbeing.

The presence of perinatal depression or anxiety impacts not only you but also your relationship with others – placing a strain on your relationship with your partner and interfering with the developing relationship with your baby (bonding and attachment). For many woman the first week after having a baby will feel like they are on an emotional roller-coaster but if this persists longer assistance should be sought.

If you feel like you may be suffering from perinatal depression or anxiety or just finding things difficult please speak to your family doctor, birth support team (including your midwife), Maternal and Child Health Nurse or a psychologist - if you don’t get help, ask again or ask someone else.

In addition to speaking to a health professional you could do the following:

  • Share your concerns with your partner or a trusted friend or family member
  • Try to eat healthy meals, exercise, nap when your baby allows you to, and avoid drugs and alcohol.
  • Take any offer of assistance – housework, cooking meals, doing the shopping or minding your baby while you sleep.
  • Go easy on yourself and don't overdo things – housework can always wait.
  • If you are working (and this applies especially to men) don't drown yourself in work.
  • Don’t compare yourself to others – people will often only show you what they want you to see.
  • Don’t read any baby advice books – they often give conflicting advice and may not suit you and your baby – read your baby not a book.
  • Don't rely on doctor Google – this is not something you need to go through alone.

Finally, if you are concerned someone else may be suffering then share this article, provide practical assistance, spend time and listen to them without judgement or needing to offer advice. For more information you could look up trusted websites including:

www.panda.org.au

www.beyondblue.org.au

www.blackdoginstitute.org.au

With this being Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week let's not allow any parent to not be heard and to not be helped when help is sought.

Rhona engages in general counselling and uses techniques from both cognitive behaviour therapy and mindfulness. Rhona regularly engages in professional development with a focus on perinatal and infant psychology.

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