Baby blues, hormones or something more?
This year as part of Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness Week (12th – 18th NOV) PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia’s ‘It happened to me’ campaign will be encouraging people all over the country who have been affected by perinatal anxiety or depression to start conversations about the illness. By sharing stories and raising awareness around the signs and symptoms we can help new and expecting parents find the support and resources they need sooner. Find out how you can get involved >
“I had no appetite, my hands kept shaking, I kept getting waves of panic coming over my body, accompanied by hot flushes, my mind was racing with panicked thoughts and even the most basic tasks felt impossible for me.”
NSW mother Shannon had just given birth to her first baby and was struggling with a serious and common mental illness – postnatal anxiety.
Feeling so lost and desperate she looked everywhere for help. “It was debilitating. I didn’t think that I could cope with the demand of being a parent every day.” Thankfully her older sister came across PANDA – Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, and encouraged Shannon to contact PANDA’s Helpline. “I contacted PANDA straight away and I felt such a relief once I spoke to one of their counsellors. She told me about Mother Baby Units (MBU) and I arranged a referral with a GP and was admitted the following day. My daughter and I spent 6 weeks in the MBU. I couldn’t be more thankful to PANDA for telling me about the MBU as I don’t know how I would have gotten through such a difficult time.”
According to PANDA, perinatal anxiety is more common than many people realise. It’s at least as common as perinatal depression and many can experience both anxiety and depression at the same time. (Perinatal refers to both the pregnancy period and the first year after birth)
Terri Smith CEO of PANDA says “The symptoms of perinatal anxiety and depression can be difficult to recognise for a whole range of reasons: symptoms are often dismissed as normal parts of pregnancy or early parenthood; shame and stigma cause some mums to put on a ‘mask of coping’ to disguise what’s happening; and symptoms can look different for each expecting or new mum.” “On PANDA’s Helpline we hear many new mums speak of an inability to sleep even when their baby is sleeping. They might have no appetite, feel angry and irritable, nervous or on edge. Every expecting or new mum’s experience of perinatal anxiety and depression is different.”
Seven months ago Shannon gave birth to her second baby and began to struggle with postnatal anxiety again. However this time she recognised the signs and symptoms and sought help straight away.
“I had my son on a Friday morning and came home on Sunday at lunch time, by the late afternoon I started feeling anxious. Then the physical symptoms started immediately. Shaking hands, hot flushes, sweating, loss of appetite and waves of panic. As soon as I felt these symptoms, I knew immediately what was happening as it was exactly what happened the first time. I went to the GP the following morning. “ While Shannon admits that both times were a very terrifying experience she hopes to share her story so other new or expecting parents know they are not alone and there is hope.
“I was terrified, I struggled to get through each hour and it felt like there was no end in sight, however I managed to survive it twice. The purpose of me telling my story is to tell other women and men that no matter how dark your days are that it does end. Never be afraid to seek help or tell someone that you are struggling. The more help you seek and accept, the quicker your road to recovery will be.”
Getting Help Visit the PANDA website to read stories from many other parents if have experienced perinatal anxiety and depression. Hearing that other mums have gone through similar experiences might help you understand what is going on. You can also call the PANDA National Helpline – 1300 726 306 (Mon-Fri 9am – 7.30pm AEST).
Recovered from perinatal anxiety , depression or postnatal psychosis and want to share your story? You too can help PANDA support new and expecting parents, visit PANDA for more information.