Pregnancy can be wonderful, happy, full of joy – and it can also be stressful, scary and disruptive. Sometimes all at the same time!
Taking care of your mental health is an essential part of a good pregnancy.
Perinatal anxiety and depression
Anxiety and depression during pregnancy and following birth are very common. According to Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA):
- 1-in-5 mothers and more than 1-in-20 fathers experience anxiety and depression during pregnancy
- After the baby is born, more than 1-in-7 mothers and 1-in-10 fathers will experience anxiety and depression
What are the symptoms?
Although anxiety & depression can look different in each person, the common symptoms include:
- Worrying all the time
- Feeling constantly on-edge or panicky, or having panic attacks
- Feeling constantly sad or teary
- Irritability or mood swings
- Losing interest in the things that usually make you happy
- Change in your sleep patterns (insomnia, disturbed sleep or over-sleeping)
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness
- Obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- Turning to alcohol or drugs to cope
- Having thoughts of suicide or harming yourself
Where can I get help?
- Talk to your GP, who can develop a Mental Health Care Plan and help you access the appropriate support services
- Talk to your obstetrician or midwife, who will know about pregnancy-specific support services in your local area
- The Gidget Foundation is a fantastic support service located in Sydney. It’s dedicated to helping expectant and new parents with anxiety and depression. The website has a wealth of resources and links to further help: https://gidgetfoundation.org.au/
- Crisis helplines for immediate support:
- PANDA National Helpline (Mon – Fri, 9am – 7.30pm AEST/AEDT): 1300 726 306
- Lifeline (24/7 availability): 13 11 14
- Beyond Blue (24/7 availability): 1300 22 46 36
What about pre-existing mental health concerns?
The majority of patients with pre-existing mental health concerns will have a safe and healthy pregnancy and birth, provided they have good support.
Patients who take medication for a mental health condition should not stop or alter their medication without speaking to their GP or psychiatrist first.
While it’s true that certain medications carry some risks for the baby, it is far more dangerous for a mother to stop taking her medication without medical advice.
I strongly recommend meeting your GP/psychiatrist and a Maternal-Fetal Medicine specialist when you first start planning a pregnancy. They will help you find the most pregnancy-friendly options and if necessary, switch over to any new medications before you conceive. They will also help you develop a plan for times of extra stress, like around the birth.