Postnatal depression and anxiety

Postnatal depression is a mood disorder that can occur after the birth of a child, usually within the first year. Symptoms of postnatal depression may vary from mild to severe and may begin suddenly or appear more gradually.

Postnatal depression is not uncommon among new parents, affecting approximately 1 in 7 women and 1 in 20 men in Australia every year. Postnatal depression can occur after the birth of any child, and women who have previously experienced antenatal or postnatal depression are at greater risk of developing postnatal depression in future.

Adjusting to parenting can be challenging for anyone, bringing a new baby into a family brings enormous change. For most people, this time of adjustment will be temporary and times of stress and anxiety will be manageable and not overly distressing. However, if you are experiencing overwhelming feelings of worry and stress which is negatively affecting your day to day life you could be experiencing postnatal depression.

Postnatal depression is different from the baby blues and postnatal psychosis and it is important to be able to distinguish between them so you can access the most appropriate advice and treatment.

About 80% of women will experience the baby blues in the first couple of days after your baby is born, women may feel moody and tearful and possibly even overwhelmed. This is a common experience and will usually pass within a couple of days.

Postnatal psychosis is a severe mental illness which affects around 1 to 2 women in very 1000 after the birth of a baby. Women suffering from postnatal psychosis may experience severe thought disturbances, abnormal behaviour, severe mood swings, hallucinations, paranoia and loss of contact with reality. Postnatal psychosis is considered a medical emergency, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should seek medical attention immediately.

There are many physical, behavioural, cognitive and emotional symptoms of postnatal depression. Each woman will have a different experience of postnatal depression and present with different symptoms. Postnatal depression is determined when symptoms and their severity remain consistent over a period of two weeks or more. Symptoms may also be related to other underlying health issues, it is therefore important to speak with your healthcare provider to discuss your concerns to rule out other contributing factors before diagnosing postnatal depression.

For more information and support;

Perinatal Wellbeing Centre

COPE (Centre of Perinatal Excellence) – Managing stress in early parenthood

ACT Health –Mental Health Services

ACT Health – Early Parenting Counselling Service

Information for partners;

Perinatal Wellbeing Centre