Pregnancy is often a time in life where the personal and public boundaries tend to blur. The moment you become pregnant or parents for the first time, people often have something to say about it. Well-meaning comments can come at you like a sudden bolt of lightning. People sharing with you their opinions.
Processing and internalising this can feel like your external world creeping in. You start to question yourself. Parental guilt can be all consuming and you can feel so alone. On the outside others look like they have it all together. You start comparing yourself. Feelings become overwhelming and you worry about never being good enough as parents. This can start to impact your other relationships too. Sometimes it may seem that the easiest way to cope is to keep to yourself. Your social and emotional wellbeing is important and plays a vital role in your life as a parent. So, it’s important to seek help early if you’re not coping as well as you’d like to.
Caring for yourself
- Sleep is vital to help you recharge and be at your best. Try to stick to a routine as much as possible and start by going to bed at the same time each day. Don’t worry about the household jobs, they will get done.
- Eating well is important to ensure that you are looking after yourself. Prepare some snacks and meals ahead of time and freeze some for later.
- Exercise and being outdoors connects you with nature. Fresh air fills your lungs with oxygen and moving your body can increase levels of your ‘happy’ hormone. Try and make exercise part of your daily routine.
- Connect with others, friends, family, or colleagues. There are so many benefits in talking. Sharing how you feel or aspects of your day, releases it from your mind; you can dump it and move on. Having someone to listen, talk with and share ideas is important for your wellbeing.
Your feelings are real
You should never dismiss your feelings. It is important for you to know that your feelings are valid and real. Anxiety, either alone or with depression is common in pregnancy. Your emotional wellbeing can cover a wide range of feelings and emotions. From the excitement of becoming parents for the first time to the uncertainty of what it will be like. Then comes the reality of it all. There are the physical changes too. According to research, up to 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men struggle with antenatal depression and more than 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads experience postnatal depression. *
Signs and symptoms *
So, what are some of the common signs and symptoms to look out for?
These can vary and may include:
- Panic attacks
- Persistent, generalised worry
- Development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- Abrupt mood swings
- Feeling constantly sad, low, or crying for no obvious reason
- Being nervous, ‘on edge’, or panicky
- Feeling constantly tired or lacking energy
- Having little or no interest in all the normal things that bring joy
If you are concerned in any way about how you are coping, make sure you talk to someone. I promise, you are not the only one to feel this way. Support is available, you don’t have to go through it alone; tell someone who cares.
Contact your GP or local MCHN. You can visit PANDA www.panda.org.au or speak to a counsellor on the PANDA National Helpline 1300 726 306.
In an emergency contact 000 or contact your nearest hospital’s emergency department.
‘Tell someone who cares’, PANDA week 8th – 14th November. Celebrating 15 years supporting families and raising awareness about perinatal anxiety and depression.
* Reference: Fact sheet “Anxiety & Depression in Pregnancy & Early Parenthood’, PANDA
Jo White is a qualified social worker who has many years’ experience working in healthcare, supporting expecting and new parents.