While you know there are a lot of changes happening with your body during these early weeks of pregnancy, it’s also very normal to feel significant shifts in how you’re feeling mentally. There is a lot to take in!
Perhaps you have experienced anxiety or depression previously or perhaps not.
Both men and women can experience mental health challenges during pregnancy and for the first 12 months of your baby’s life. We want you to know that there is no guilt or shame in how you are feeling. You are not alone and it does not make you a bad parent or bad person. In fact, seeking help early can mean a faster recovery with less of an impact on your life and relationships.
There are a range of treatment options, including:
- social support, speaking with someone who has been through a similar experience
- a healthy diet
- medication approved for use during pregnancy
It is normal to experience a degree of anxiety and ‘ups and downs’ when expecting a baby. However, some people develop a more pronounced anxiety or lower mood (depression) which affects their daily life and function. If symptoms last for more than two weeks, it’s time to seek support.
The signs and symptoms of antenatal anxiety and depression can vary but may include:
- Panic attacks (a racing heart, palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking or feeling physically ‘detached’ from your surroundings)
- Persistent, generalised worry, often focused on fears for the health or wellbeing of the baby
- The development of obsessive or compulsive behaviours
- Abrupt mood swings
- Feeling constantly sad, low, or crying for no obvious reason
- Being nervous, ‘on edge’, or panicky
- Having little or no interest in all the normal things that bring joy (like time with friends, exercise, eating, or sharing partner time)
- Sleeping too much or not sleeping very well at all
- Losing interest in sex or intimacy
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Being easily annoyed or irritated
- Finding it difficult to focus, concentrate or remember (people with depression often describe this as a ‘brain fog’)
- Engaging in more risk taking behaviour (e.g., alcohol or drug use)
- Having thoughts of death or suicide.
The important thing is to recognise how you are feeling and find someone to talk to. That might be a friend, your GP or someone on a support line like Beyond Blue or PANDA. It’s also important to let your obstetrician know what’s going on.