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February 3, 2023

Mental health of new or expectant parents

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​It’s Perinatal Depression and Anxiety (PNDA) Awareness Week (15-21 November).

Perinatal describes the period from conception through to about a year after the baby is born. We know that many women and their partners experience anxiety and depression during pregnancy, as well as after the baby arrives.

Prevalence – new mums and dads

Depression and anxiety are very common at this time, but it’s not just women who can be affected. The mental health of new dads can also be at risk.

One in seven new mums and up to one in 10 new dads is likely to experience postnatal depression – and during pregnancy, up to one in 10 women and one in 20 expectant dads struggles with antenatal depression. It is thought that the rate of anxiety across the whole perinatal period for both men and women is just as high.

Community issue

With tens of thousands of expectant and new parents likely to be affected every year, it’s important for everyone to realise this is an issue for the whole family, and for the couple’s friends and colleagues. You need to just speak up if you think something is not quite right.

Untreated depression in a new mum can not only affect her relationship with her baby and its development, her relationship with her partner and other children, but in some cases, it can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts.

Fewer than 50 per cent of mothers seek help due to fear of stigma, perceptions that they will be seen as a failure, because they don’t really understand depression and anxiety or have concerns about passing medication to the baby through breast milk.

Look after baby’s physical and mental health

Many pregnant women are very strict about not drinking alcohol or eating certain foods during pregnancy for fear of harming their baby’s development. I encourage them to give just as much thought to how they can protect the mental health of their child. The best way to support your baby’s development is to look after your own mental health.

Help is available

If you think you or someone you know is struggling with depression or anxiety, please go to beyondblue’s website for new and expectant parents www.justspeakup.com.au

You can complete the depression and anxiety checklist and find supportive information for mums and dads on where to get help. There is also a free app, Mind the Bump – which can be downloaded from the Apple Store and Google Play – and by following the guided meditations, it can help bring peace and calm to what can be a stressful situation.

It’s also important to talk through any concerns you may have with your doctor, maternal health nurse or call the PANDA National Helpline 1300 726 306 (10am till 5pm AEST Monday to Friday) or the beyondblue Support Service 24/7 on 1300 22 4636 or live chat (between 3pm and midnight AEST) via www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support.

Georgie Harman, CEO, beyondblue


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