A WOMEN’S health specialist has urged new parents to speak up about their struggles with perinatal depression and anxiety.
Perinatal depression and anxiety affects parents after childbirth and can make them anxious, panicky, less energetic, disrupt their sleep, disconnect from friends and family and withdraw.
Gosnells Women’s Health and Wellbeing Service counselling psychologist Melanie Robson said Perinatal Depression and Anxiety Awareness Week, which ran from November 12-18, was a good time to speak up if you were feeling depressed following childbirth.
“It can happen unexpectedly, you might never have had a history of depression or anxiety and find you’re quite flawed by this adjustment and that can be upsetting in itself,” she said.
“Untreated, it can have an impact on your relationship and an attachment to you children, which can be quite significant and pose potential risks later on down the path.
“It’s different from the ‘post baby blues’ which are really common a few days after birth, this is something that goes on for a longer period of time and you may find moods can be really affected.”
Ms Robson said one in seven women and one in ten men were affected by it and it was important for both to feel comfortable talking about it.
“In terms of postnatal depression, one in seven mums and one in ten dads were affected, whereas with antenatal (before the baby), it’s one in ten women and one in twenty dads – so it increases post birth,” she said.
“Men can absolutely struggle to adjust to the demands of fatherhood.
“They might find more pressure, it’s a bigger responsibility, they’ve got to make sure they’re a father now, and manage the way they and their wives are working.
“It can be a big change in the marital relationship, adjusting to the changes in intimacy and emotional availability.”
Ms Robson urged people struggling to not isolate themselves and instead talk to family, friends or health professionals.
“(I would) really encourage them to be open and honest with someone, whether it’s a partner, a friend, child health nurse, or a general practitioner,” she said.
“Isolation can be quite significant, so the first step is just breaking down that barrier and saying ‘hey, I’m struggling, this is not what I thought it would be.”
If you are experiencing perinatal depression and anxiety, contact your local GP for help.