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Pregnancy: Emotional Health and Well-being

Pregnancy, birth and parenting are recognised as a time of great change and adjustment for you and your family. It is normal to feel unsure and a little overwhelmed. This can be due to the large hormonal shifts you may experience as you adjust to your new role/s. This time can be stressful, particularly if combined with other issues such as: limited available support, previous history of mental health issues or difficult pregnancy.

It is important to be aware of the emotional wellbeing of parents as well as monitoring and supporting the physical aspects of pregnancy and child birth.

All women are now screened during their pregnancy to assess their emotional wellbeing and to identify relevant issues that may impact on this. The aim is to actively support women and link them with appropriate services as soon as possible. Prompt support and/or treatment means that the woman and her family will be in the best possible situation prior to the birth of the baby.

It is estimated that up to 80 percent of women are affected to some degree by the Baby Blues after they give birth. It is one of the most common conditions after you have your baby. The Baby Blues experience usually occurs on the 3rd or 4th day after the birth. For most women the symptoms go away in a matter of hours or days and treatment is not necessary. Practical support and understanding that the condition is temporary helps to get through these initial difficulties.

Symptoms include: Feeling tearful and sad, anxious and/or irritable, low mood, unhappy, easily upset and having difficulty sleeping.

Causes may be due to:

  • Physical factors - large hormonal changes from pregnant to non-pregnant state, sleep deprivation
  • Emotional factors - a sense of 'anticlimax' after giving birth, adjusting to no longer being pregnant, adjusting to a new job with no job description or a very confusing job description whilst you are already very tired
  • Social factors - lots of visitors, noisy environment with frequent disruptions, sleeping in a strange bed

For some women, these symptoms continue or worsen over time. It is possible that they are experiencing mental health issues such as depression and/or anxiety. Parents have said that 'it is difficult to ask for help, at a time where everyone expects you to feel happy'. For those of you, who can identify with this statement, please remember that no one chooses to feel this way. Support is available. Please talk to your GP or phone one of the numbers listed below. Again, early intervention is the key to good outcomes.

Untreated, these mental health conditions may impact on the person's overall ability to cope, relationships and quality of life. For some it may impact on their ability to bond with the baby though it is not correct to assume that those who experience depression and/or anxiety don't love their child or children.

Beyondblue produced the following list regarding the important things to remember during this time:

  • Pregnancy, birth and early parenthood is a time of change
  • It may be difficult to adjust to these changes
  • There are many ways of preparing for and managing pregnancy, birth and early parenthood so that you can minimise stress and make the most of it
  • Depression and anxiety can occur at any time in your life and are often triggered by a major life event like pregnancy or having a baby
  • Postnatal depression affects almost 16 percent of women giving birth in Australia
  • Depression and anxiety are treatable and effective treatments are available
  • Recovery is common
  • If you are concerned that you or someone you know may have symptoms of depression please contact a doctor or health professional
  • It is important to seek help - the sooner the better
  • Help is as close as a telephone call or a mouse click away

There are great services who offer support over the phone:

  • PANDA (Post and Antenatal depression Association) Helpline on 1300 726 306
  • Queensland Health on 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84 )
  • Women's Health Queensland Wide on 07-3839 9988
  • Women's Infolink on 1800 177 577
  • Pregnancy, birth and baby helpline on 1800 882 436
  • Parent Line on 1300 30 1300
  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 78 99 78
  • Relationships Australia on 1300 364 277
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Some websites are also useful to learn more about your mental health and support options. Websites like these are a good place to start:

Beyond Blue
Black Dog Institute

If you feel you could benefit from a face to face assessment and advice, please make an appointment with your GP.

Last updated: 14 April 2015