‘Perinatal’ describes the period during pregnancy (antenatal) as well as the year following birth (postnatal). Women can develop symptoms of depression and anxiety before, during, or after the birth of a child, or may experience symptoms throughout. When considering the huge life adjustment associated with being a new mum, on top of the demands of a pregnancy or a newborn, it is unsurprising that some women experience depression and/or anxiety.

Many women worry that the transition to motherhood should be effortless and joyful, and feel frustrated or confused when this is not the case for them. If you are experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety, you may be distressed by your mood and inability to enjoy aspects of the pregnancy or newborn period. You may be noticing ongoing changes in your mood, sleep, motivation, confidence, appetite, and have begun to withdraw from family and friends. If this is the case for you, it is important to speak with a professional. In some cases, without seeking support, symptoms of perinatal anxiety and depression can have a lasting impact a woman’s self-esteem.

Motherhood presents some of the greatest challenges and joys in life. For some women, pregnancy and birth does not go as planned, and they encounter emotional difficulties they didn’t anticipate. For example, you may have had a positive and uncomplicated pregnancy in the past, and are surprised to now be experiencing perinatal anxiety.

You may identify with some of the factors which are believed to contribute to perinatal anxiety and depression:

  • Previous mental health problems
  • Life stressors such as relationship concerns, financial strain, medical concerns, etc
  • Lack of practical support – e.g. single parenthood or absence of family support
  • Lack of emotional support or a breakdown in relationships with close friends or family
  • Complications with pregnancy or labour, including premature delivery
  • Breastfeeding difficulties
  • Having unrealistic expectations about pregnancy or motherhood

If you are pregnant, and are beginning to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression, early intervention is vital as a protective factor against ongoing symptoms after your baby is born. As a new mum, you are the most influential person in your child’s life. The maternal bond is an extremely precious and unique relationship. However, the maternal bond does not always form instantaneously, and is influenced by both emotional and physical components of your health. Therefore, it is extremely important to take care of both your physical and mental health. From infancy, a child needs an attentive, emotionally responsive caregiver for their healthy physical, social and emotional development: a relationship in which the infant feels secure promotes later psychological wellbeing.

Don’t struggle with perinatal anxiety and depression alone, seek support from a psychologist. At VCPS our practitioners are specialised in providing support to mothers experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression.

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