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Where do I start?
It’s very common to feel overwhelmed, exhausted and a range of other emotions during pregnancy or when looking after a new baby. It is going to be one of the biggest changes in your life and one that we are all often totally unprepared for.
The first year after having a baby is also a time of great change not only to your identity but also to your relationships. It’s helpful to take a breath and pause for a moment and let it all sink in, allowing yourself time to settle into your new life as a parent. It takes time to adjust and also to get to know your baby and learn to manage your new life.
The complexities of seeking help
Talking to other parents or trusted friends and family can be helpful if you need to debrief or just to have someone listen to you to lessen the isolation and feel supported. Choosing someone who is non-judgemental and whom you can be honest with is a good start. Often offloading fears and frustrations is all that is needed. Sometimes emotional and practical support can also help lighten the load. There are also some helpful online sources of peer support for such as the Gidget Virtual Village for both new mums and new dads/partners.
However, if support from friends and family is not enough, there are many health professionals whom you can turn to. For example, your local GP or early childhood nurse. It is common for new and expectant mums and dads/partners to experience a range of worries and coupled with sleep deprivation, it can all feel overwhelming.
When should I seek further support?
If you feel overly worried, more irritable, can’t sleep or lose appetite or even sadder than usual and it doesn’t settle in a few weeks and nothing is helping alleviate those feelings, then maybe it is time to reach out. We would recommend start talking to someone who can help you access further specialised help. As well as those mentioned above you could also try your Midwife or Obstetrician.
Accessing help for perinatal depression and anxiety can feel daunting and sometimes difficult. There is also a stigma surrounding mental health, but health professionals know how hard it can be and know that these anxious and depressive feelings can be treated and how common they are. Being referred to a counsellor, psychologist or a psychiatrist can also be helpful as you adjust to this new life.
Making the first approach to a professional is not always easy. If that’s the case, it’s a good idea to ask a friend or relative to make the call for you and if it helps you can take them to the first appointment.
Sometimes expectant and new parents don’t seek help because:
- they may not realise they have a medical condition that can be treated.
- many parents feel ashamed or guilty for not enjoying this parenting role.
- many women are afraid of being labelled a ‘bad mother’.
- diagnosis can prove difficult if not consulting with someone who has perinatal experience.
- prior negative experience with health professionals.
- fear of having the baby taken away.
- dads/partners may feel bad saying how they are struggling too given what their partner is managing.
- dads/partners may feel like it is not masculine to talk about their feelings or maybe busy juggling work and family and don’t realise their own mental health is deteriorating.
Taking all of this into account, it is worthwhile persevering and finding the right help. Research has consistently shown that parents who receive timely professional support have the best chances of recovering from perinatal depression and anxiety.
Where can I find help?
Professionals who can help with perinatal depression and anxiety:
- Child and Family Health Nurse
- General Practitioner
These health professionals can assess parent’s perinatal depression and anxiety and can refer to the following specialists if further support is required:
- Social Worker
- Specialist support groups
- Mental health nurses