Ms Jessen said one in seven women would experience anxiety in the perinatal period (during pregnancy or after birth) but many women were not aware of symptoms to look out for.
“Sometimes new mums accept really significant anxiety as ‘normal’ and don’t realise they can get help and that things can get better,” Ms Jessen said.
“There are actually lots of supports available in our local area and recovery is possible.”
Ms Jessen said she felt anxiety when her second daughter Amelia became unwell after she was born. The Subiaco-based psychologist said that at the time she was continually on edge, tense and had difficulty sleeping, which led to panic attacks.
“These were clear symptoms of perinatal anxiety; however, at the time I didn’t recognise them and I struggled to talk to others about what I was experiencing,” she said.
After reaching out to her mother about her experiences, Ms Jessen sought counselling and found healthy ways to manage her anxiety.
Ms Jessen now helps other mothers at risk of, or experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression by giving them the tools to recognise and manage the symptoms.
“The first step is to talk to someone you trust and let them know what is going on,” Ms Jessen said.
“This may involve talking to your GP, another health professional, or a friend or family member who can help you get the support you need.”
Ms Jessen said the more she spoke up, the more she realised she was not alone and friends had also experienced difficulties.
“It may also be helpful to see a counsellor or psychologist to help you understand the cause of the anxiety and to work with you to develop ways of managing it.”