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How to spot this condition and seek help early

Identifying Antenatal Anxiety & Depression


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13/11/2017

How to spot this condition and seek help early

This article is from the Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia (PANDA) website.

Everyone's experience of pregnancy is different. Just as there are physical changes, there are also common emotional changes associated with each trimester, such as mood swings, anxiety and excitement.

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 lowered mood which can affect their daily life and functioning. When this occurs during pregnancy it is known as antenatal anxiety or antenatal depression. 

Up to 1 in 10 women and 1 in 20 men experience antenatal depression. Anxiety is just as common, and many expecting parents can experience both anxiety and depression. Antenatal anxiety or depression is a serious illness but there are treatments, support and services available to help you through this experience. It is important to know the signs and symptoms and seek help early, remember that antenatal anxiety and depression appear differently for each expecting parent.

Common Symptoms of Antenatal Anxiety & Depression:

  • 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
  • Feeling constantly tired and lacking energy
  • 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 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 risk-taking behaviour (for example, alcohol or drug use)
  • Having thoughts of death or suicide, or self-harm.

It can be particularly difficult to share these thoughts and feelings. But it is more important for those around you to be aware of the difficulties you are experiencing so they can support you through your recovery. And if you are experiencing any of these symptoms, or others that are affecting your emotional or mental health to the point of not being able to function day to day, then it’s time to seek support. 

It’s important to remember that antenatal anxiety and depression is temporary and treatable. The important thing to do is seek help as early as possible. However, if you are concerned that you or someone in the family is at risk of suicide or being harmed it’s vital that you seek immediate help by contacting either a GP or your nearest hospital’s emergency department. You can also contact PANDA for advice and support. If you believe that someone’s life is at immediate risk, then call 000. If other symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it’s time to seek support. Otherwise, things can get worse and it might take longer to recover.

The after birth (postnatal) period and transition into early parenthood can also trigger anxiety or depression. Learn about identifying symptoms early and how to manage your post-birthmental health here.




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