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Postnatal Depression

It’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of postnatal depression so you can seek help early to reduce the impacts it can have on you and your family.

Vacant mum holds baby

When it’s not just a new baby joining the family

Anxious, depressed or stressed? You’re not alone.

Being a parent can be one of the most rewarding AND challenging roles you’ll take on in life.

Lack of sleep, uncertainty, always being on call… it’s easy to see how it can take a toll on your mental health and wellbeing.

But how do you know when you are no longer just tired or run-down, but experiencing something else?

More than just ‘baby blues’…

Feelings that last beyond the first few days and continue to get worse, may be a sign of developing depression.

Postnatal depression is the name given to depression that develops between one month and up to one year after the birth of a baby.

Postnatal depression affects one in seven Australian women after birth.

And it’s not just the mums! One in every 20 dads will also experience depression in that first year.

While everyone’s experience is different, some warning signs include:

  • No longer feeling ‘yourself’
  • Getting upset or angry over small things
  • Finding yourself thinking negatively
  • No longer enjoying the things you used to
  • Withdrawing from others
  • Feeling on edge
  • Feeling empty inside
  • Getting headaches and stomach aches
  • Changes in your appetite
  • Others noticed changes in your mood or behaviour

It’s time to look after YOU

If you’re experiencing some of these signs it may be time to stop and consider your own mental health.

While it’s important to look after your new baby, it’s just as important to look after yourself too. Take the time to:

  • Be kind to yourself. Be realistic about what you can achieve and don’t expect to be perfect
  • Exercise regularly – it helps to release endorphins that improve your mood
  • Surround yourself with supportive people who can provide you with encouragement
  • Set aside some time every day to relax and recharge - even if it’s only for 15 minutes
  • Make health a priority in your family. Eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep is good for everyone – baby included
  • Talk to somebody you trust such as a friend, family member, or Parentline counsellor
  • Seek help. Talk to your doctor about your concerns

When should I seek help?

It's common to have good days and bad days when caring for a new baby. But if you've experienced some of the symptoms below for two weeks or more, it's important to seek some help.

Symptoms of postnatal depression include:

Panic attacks (racing heart, shortness of breath, shaking)

Feeling constantly sad, worried, or crying for no obvious reason

Frequent and abrupt mood swings

Thoughts of death or suicide

Persistent worrying, thoughts or fears about the wellbeing of the baby

Having thoughts of harming yourself, baby and/or other children

Feeling hopeless, helpless or worthless

Lack of interest in yourself and or your baby

Feeling low or numb

Feeling isolated, alone or disconnected from others

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, you will need help. It can be hard to take that first step, but remember you're not alone.

If you are at risk of immediate harm, seek help straight away by calling emergency services on 000.

Who can help?

There are treatments, supports and services available to help you through this experience. These include:

Parentline is just a phone call away

"I was struggling and felt inadequate. Although making that first call was hard, I was left feeling empowered. It was exactly what I needed."

- Kate, mum of a nine-month old

This content was last reviewed 03/05/2018

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