Having a baby. Arguably one of the largest lifestyle changes an adult can experience.
To help new and would be-parents we spoke to Jenni Richardson, the National Helpline Manager with Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia.
Her tips are . . .
While you can plan for having a baby, there’s a lot that’s out of your control.
When your expectations don’t match reality, it’s really common to feel a deep sense of loss and even failure — not the greatest starting point for a 24/7 job caring for a totally dependent little person!
Be gentle with yourself and allow you and your baby time to get to know each other.
Anyone with a pre-existing mental illness knows how important sleep is for emotional and mental wellbeing.
Maintaining mental health during the early days of parenting relies on getting regular sleep. This might mean enlisting help with household chores or letting them go, so you can sleep when baby sleeps.
1 in 10 women experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy, and post-natal anxiety and depression are common up to a year after birth. Anxiety and scary thoughts are a sign you need help, not a sign you’re a bad parent.
Pretending that everything is okay when it isn’t prolongs your suffering and robs you of the opportunity to enjoy your baby. Open up to your partner, a trusted friend, family member or health professional. Seeking help early leads to a faster recovery.
If you were on medication prior to having a baby, seek expert medical advice before making any choice to stop. It’s important to weigh up the impact of untreated mental illness against the potential harm from medication.
Well-meaning friends and family might have strong opinions, but a health professional is the best person to discuss this with. Ultimately, your wellbeing is crucial to the wellbeing of your baby.
For parents with a history of trauma, the perinatal period can trigger a range of unexpected and overwhelming feelings. Sensations and procedures associated with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding are all potential triggers, as is a crying baby.
A distressed parent can’t soothe a distressed infant until they soothe themselves. If you’re struggling, it’s important to know that these responses are not your fault — you’re not a bad parent.
What you need is compassionate, trauma-informed support and care. You deserve it and so does your baby.
Wearing a ‘mask of coping’, or withdrawing from family and friends, are both common in perinatal anxiety and depression. However, in order to access emotional and practical support, we need to connect and engage with trusted friends, family or health professionals.
Sharing experiences via forums, mothers groups, supports groups and playgroups can normalise common challenges and lessen the sense of being alone.
1 in 7 women and 1 in 10 men are thought to experience postnatal depression, and the rates are even higher for anxiety. Everyone around you might seem to be coping, but it’s likely someone in your group is struggling with similar challenges. Maybe you can be the brave one to speak up!