The transition to parenthood is one of the most important times in anyone’s life and we are often told it should be the happiest. However, we know that 1 in 5 mums and 1 in 10 dads will experience some form of perinatal depression and anxiety (PNDA). It is a common, temporary and treatable medical condition. This journey into parenthood is often a mixed experience with intense joys as well as lows, fears and times when the juggle between family and work can be very difficult.
Everyone is vulnerable when a baby comes along – first time parents, those who’ve journeyed down this path before, parents from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, as well as non-biological parents and other carers such as foster/adoptive parents.
It doesn’t matter how many books you have read, or how hard you have tried to prepare yourself, we are all unprepared for what a baby brings into our lives. Life changes in so many ways as do our relationships with those around us. It is normal to feel overwhelmed and exhausted at times, especially in the first few months. Some increase in anxiety is also normal as you recover from the birth, adjust to the demands of being a parent and feel responsible for another human being. Even if you have the best support networks around you, you can still feel quite lonely at times too.
So much energy goes into looking after the baby that often our own individual needs are put on hold. There is little time to recharge or put some self-care strategies in place. We are trying to do the best we can as new parents and there is so much pressure to do it well. Pressures can come from others or within ourselves. At Gidget Foundation Australia we believe there is no perfect parent. We encourage you to look after yourself and reach out if you feel overwhelmed. Start talking to someone who will listen and help you seek further support if you need.
There are some evidence-based ways to lift your mood and decrease anxiety. Some are listed below – try a few out for yourself and see what feels right for you:
- Try to stay connected to people in whatever way you can
- Practice regular breathing exercises
- Enjoy mindfulness activities such as using the CALM app, walking in nature or at the beach, or gazing at your baby or children and watching them play
- Listen to your favourite music or sing (Singing activates the vagus nerve and can lessen anxiety.)
- Keep active, doing whatever you enjoy (This reduces stress hormone build-up.)
- Try to eat a reasonably balanced diet, most of the time
- Look at your bedtime rituals. Are they working for you? It may help to limit screen time before bed, use low lighting or implement regular bedtimes. It’s helpful to rest whenever you can.
- Limit social media as it’s not always realistic or helpful
- Try taking the pressure off and keep life as simple as possible
- Practice regular gratitude towards yourself and others
- Take some time out for self-care (this helps build resilience and boosts feel-good hormones)
- Talk to your children, partner, trusted friends and loved ones
- Reach out for help and support if you need
If your depressed or anxious feelings don’t settle by using some of these tips, it may be time to contact a professional to discuss your emotional wellbeing. Gidget Foundation Australia is committed to providing specialist care for expectant and new parents Australia-wide. Our Clinicians have extensive perinatal experience and are perfectly positioned to help you.
We understand it can be a bit daunting to reach out and organise some counselling for either yourself or someone close to you. Our website has some valuable information on perinatal related issues as well as the services we offer. This could be a good place to start. Otherwise, you can always contact us by phone to discuss first steps with our friendly team.
Counselling has come a long way from the original Freudian approach of lying on a couch and having a therapist sit beside you taking notes. Our experienced Clinicians take great care in delivering our service from start to finish, and will help you feel comfortable. They will help you understand what’s actually going on, and provide you with a tailored approach to your care. We can support you by offering at least 10 Medicare bulk-billed psychological counselling sessions per calendar year. There is no cost to you for these sessions (with a GP referral and mental health care plan). Depending on where you live (and whether any COVID-related restrictions are in place), these can be either face-to-face or via a video call, as part of our Start Talking Telehealth program. Regardless of the type of appointment, the counselling space is a safe, non-judgemental place. Our team of perinatal specialists are ready to support you. You don’t have to struggle alone.
At Gidget Foundation Australia we aim to provide compassionate, professional, timely, evidence-based support for you or someone you love. If it’s been two weeks or more since you ‘felt yourself’, after giving yourself a while to settle into your new world as parents, it may be time to reach out for support. We are here to help.
Gidget Foundation Australia
1300 851 758