Understanding and Overcoming Perinatal Depression

Playgroup NSW

Categories: Taking care of yourself

Perinatal depression (PND) is a condition many parents experience when having a baby. The “perinatal” period extends from the beginning of pregnancy to the first year after the baby is born. It manifests through anxious and depressive feelings during an extended period of time and can occur in both mums and dads.

The pregnancy experience varies from woman to woman. A normal pregnancy brings changes in your body and hormones, both physical and emotional, and various changes are associated with each trimester.

Mood swings, anxiety and excitement are just some of the normal mood swings that come with pregnancy. The question is: How can you identify when these mood swings become problematic?

PND signs and symptoms

Perinatal depression is a vast label that incorporates both antenatal moods of anxiety and depression and postnatal depression.

Antenatal anxiety

Worry, stress and a bit of anxiety are somewhat normal during pregnancy, as it comes with a lot of changes (both physical and emotional). This can be problematic when it has a strong impact on your day-to-day life and and can turn into what is known as antenatal anxiety. The condition affects both expecting mums and dads.

The most prevalent symptoms of antenatal anxiety are:

  • Persistent and generalised worry (like worrying that something may be wrong with the baby)
  • Panic attacks (which can manifest in outbursts of extreme fear and panic that “take over” your body and make you feel “out of control”)
  • Constant feelings of restlessness and irritability
  • Muscle tension and tightness in your chest

Antenatal depression

Antenatal depression occurs before birth and manifests in both women and men.

Did you know…? Studies show that 1 in 10 expecting mums and 1 in 20 expecting dads struggle with antenatal depression.

It’s important to learn how to identify it early on to be able to seek professional help and provide support as soon as possible. These are some of its most common symptoms:

  • Feeling low or numb (“feeling nothing at all”)
  • Loss of confidence (feeling helpless, hopeless, worthless)
  • Feeling emotional (teary, angry, irritable, resentful)
  • Changes in sleep (difficulty falling asleep or staying awake)
  • Changes in appetite (accompanied by weight loss or weight gain)
  • Lack of interest and energy
  • Difficulties concentrating, thinking clearly and making decisions
  • Feeling isolated (alone, disconnected)
  • Thoughts of harming yourself, your baby or other children
  • Difficulty getting through the day

Postnatal depression

Postnatal depression occurs after birth and manifests itself in both women and men.

Did you know...? Studies reveal that 1 in 7 new mums and up to 1 in 10 new dads are diagnosed with postnatal depression each year.

You may have heard of the “baby blues”, which is a common term used nowadays for those tearful and anxious couple of weeks after a woman gives birth. This type of low mood is considered normal in the first two weeks after birth. If these symptoms last longer, it may be the case of postnatal depression.

The most common symptoms of postnatal depression are the same as those in antenatal depression. The only difference is that they manifest after the birth of the baby, and they exist longer than two weeks.

It's important for expecting and new parents, as well as for those around them, to be aware of perinatal anxiety and depression symptoms. If you can identify them in your partner, it’s important to seek professional help (medical and psychological therapy) and offer as much support as you can give (from family and support groups).

One thing to remember is that everyone's experience of parenthood, including perinatal anxiety and depression, is different. However, with the right treatment and support, suffering parents can make a full recovery.

In making a full recovery from PND, support from your partner, friends, family and the community is very important. Postnatal support groups are also a great resource to provide moral and emotional support. 

If you feel you might have PND, talk to your GP or community health nurse and they can refer you to local support services.

Join a dedicated playgroup in your area

At playgroup, even if it is a general community playgroup, you can meet parents who went through perinatal depression and learn how they coped with the situation. We currently have two PND playgroups in NSW, one in Wagga-Wagga and one in Wollongong.

However, all our playgroups are comprised of parents with babies, toddlers and preschool aged children, which can prove very supportive in helping parents to get over perinatal depression. If you suffer from PND, attending playgroup might not be enough; we strongly advise seeking professional help in the treatment of this condition.


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