Perinatal Depression and Anxiety
Wednesday 16 June 2021
My Amazing Body is a podcast where we explore interesting, unknown and misunderstood parts of your body with help from medical experts and stories from real Queenslanders. Join us for our special five-part series focused specifically on mental health and wellbeing.
Across Australia one in seven new mums and one in ten new dads experience postnatal depression each year, and postnatal anxiety is just as common. This episode is about perinatal depression and anxiety. What is it, who does it affect, and what does it do to your body?
Stacie Gill, perinatal mental health coordinator at Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, explains what perinatal depression and anxiety is and how it affects your body. She also talks about the best ways to look after your mental wellbeing. Jen, a Queensland woman, talks about her lived experience with perinatal anxiety and depression.
Meet our Guests
“I think most of us who get into psychiatry or psychology do it because we want to make a difference, and I think perinatal mental health in particular is an area where you can really see difference.”
“I think that it's when you don't feel quite like yourself, when you maybe don't have interest in what you used to do anymore, when you don't necessarily feel bonded to your child, even though everything might seem like it should be great. I think that's the time to go and seek some help.”
Episode Material and Support:
Queensland Centre for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (QCPIMH)—aims to support parents, caregivers and communities to have the confidence, knowledge, skills and resources to support their own wellbeing and raise emotionally healthy and resilient children.
PANDA—Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia—supports women, men, and families across Australia affected by anxiety and depression during pregnancy, and in the first year of parenthood. PANDA operates Australia’s only national helpline for individuals and their families to recover from perinatal anxiety and depression.
Peach Tree — is a 100% Peer-led organisation, meaning all staff and volunteers have their own personal experiences of perinatal mental illness. It’s a safe space for parents and families to find support.
Queensland Health help lines, counselling, and support groups – 1300 MH CALL (1300 642 255) is a confidential mental health telephone triage service that provides the first point of contact to public mental health services to Queenslanders.
Queensland Health Dear Mind website. — Taking some ‘me time’ is important. And it also helps strengthen your mental wellbeing. Having a healthy sense of mental wellbeing has many benefits. It lifts your mood, promotes resilience in difficult situations and helps you get the most out of life. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you live or how you’re feeling – taking a few moments for yourself each day will help you be a happier and more resilient you.
Beyond Blue — provides information and support to help everyone in Australia to achieve their best possible mental health, whatever their age and wherever they live.
LifeLine — is a national charity who provide all Australians experiencing emotional distress with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
If you or someone you know need support, book an appointment to see your GP and talk to them or contact Lifeline on 13 11 14, and if it’s an emergency, please call 000 immediately.
Stacie Gill: They say that it takes a village to raise a child. It certainly does. Relying on support systems and wraparound services for women and families during this time is a really important part of treatment.
Host: Welcome to season three of My Amazing Body - a podcast where we explore interesting, unknown, and misunderstood parts of your body. This is episode three of our special five-part series focused specifically on mental health and wellbeing.
This episode of My Amazing Body contains a firsthand account of what it’s like to experience perinatal anxiety and depression.
It references miscarriage, loss, and suicide. If you or someone you know needs support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and if it’s an emergency, please call 000 immediately.
Across Australia, one in seven new mums and one in ten new dads experience postnatal depression each year, and postnatal anxiety is just as common. Often parents will experience anxiety and depression at the same time.
As the perinatal mental health coordinator at Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service, Stacie Gill is an expert in perinatal depression and anxiety.
Stacie Gill: My name's Stacie Gill. I am the perinatal mental health coordinator here at the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service. I am also psychologist by trade and have training in perinatal and infant mental health.
Host: Have you heard of postnatal depression? What about perinatal or antenatal depression and anxiety? Stacie explains what these mental health conditions are and how they differ from each other.
Stacie Gill: Interchangeably, we have antenatal, we have postnatal, postpartum, but generally what we refer to now as perinatal. Peri meaning the time around, so that encompasses both anti and postnatal periods.
Perinatal depression and anxiety generally fall under a broader umbrella term of perinatal mental health, which is generally considered the emotional wellbeing of women, their infants, and families, including the impact of the parent in that relationship, from usually the period of conception right up until twenty-four months postpartum. It also will include and encompass pre-conception, which is for women who already have serious mental health issues, or it also include things like traumatic birth experiences and perinatal loss.
Host: Stacie says that often if someone is experiencing perinatal depression, they will also be experiencing perinatal anxiety. But it's not always the case.
Stacie Gill: Perinatal anxiety and depression are often what we would call comorbid, so they often occur together. Usually someone will have what we refer to as a comorbid presentation or a pre-existing underlying anxiety that can, in the antenatal period, lead to a depression in the postnatal period. But we also do have women who will have just a perinatal anxiety or just a perinatal depression. They can coexist, but they can also occur quite separately.
We don't actually have many figures related to the comorbidity, but what we do know is we have roughly one in seven women will experience perinatal depression, which is very high. Then it's actually a bit higher for anxiety in the perinatal period. It's roughly jumps up between one in five women. It's very common.
Host: It's not just mums who experience mental health conditions during and after pregnancy. Research indicates that one in ten fathers experience postnatal depression. While one in six fathers experience anxiety during the prenatal period and one in five during the postnatal period, psychologist, Stacie says that this is often a different experience to the birth mother.
Stacie Gill: This is also an area, which is now recognized, whereas fathers as well can also experience perinatal depression and anxiety as well, which can be a different experience from that as the woman and there's different mechanisms at play, but we also have, it's not just mum and it's not just dad. We also know that perinatal anxiety and depression can also affect adoptive parents and I think specifically, and this is probably the most unique part of this, if untreated in a birth mum, it can actually have significant impacts, if untreated, on the baby itself and the baby's mental health, we know that parents' responsiveness and sensitivity to their newborns are real predictors to developing a secure infant attachment and I guess when we have untreated perinatal mental illness, whether that's from mum or dad, or mum and mum and dad and dad, it really can affect a parent's capacity to be able to respond appropriately to an infant's needs and that can eventually go on to have, if untreated, lifelong effects.
Host: Mental health conditions during pregnancy and early parenthood can affect anyone, regardless of your background, but there are some risk factors, Stacie explains.
Stacie Gill: When we're talking about risk factors, I think women—and I will refer mainly to women, because that's the majority of the work that we do—but if you have had a prior history of depression before you've had children, or you've had a previous episode of postnatal depression, you are at an increased risk for developing it again. It doesn't mean that you certainly will, but the risk is increased. Other things are women who may be ambivalent about their pregnancy. It may have been a very unplanned pregnancy and many times it may be an unwanted pregnancy as well. We also have situations with women who may have had pre-existing mental health issues, in particular anxiety and depression, who abruptly stop and discontinue medication that they may be on. That places them at a significant increased risk for developing postnatal depression. We also have different factors such as the lack of sleep and breastfeeding difficulties that a lot of women will experience, as well as limited social support will also certainly place a woman at an increased risk of developing perinatal mental illness.
Another thing that's always important to keep in mind is complications in labour and birth, and in particular birth trauma is also a risk factor for developing perinatal depression and anxiety as well. We have an absolute rapid fall in progesterone and estrogen after a woman gives birth and cortisol as well and other hormones following birth, and we also have women who will have hypersensitivity to hormonal changes that places her as vulnerable to developing perinatal depression and/or anxiety as well.
Host: Most people have heard about the baby blues, which usually occur in the first few days after giving birth. Stacie says symptoms of the baby blues can be similar to perinatal depression, but the baby blues are not a mental health condition. She says that perinatal depression or anxiety will often start around four weeks after birth.
Stacie Gill: Baby blues is something that's very common. We have about seventy-five per cent of women in the postnatal period that will experience something that's called the baby blues. Usually starts by about day three after birth and usually can last up until about two weeks afterwards. So usually what we'll see is women being very tearful, overwhelmed, irritable from day three onwards after that initial rush of, a lot of the time, the excitement and the joy then comes plummeting down to earth afterwards. So that's very common. Seventy-five per cent of women will experience that. If we move that though to something more into the perinatal depression, we’re considering something that will usually start from about four weeks up to twelve months after birth. It will usually last for at least two weeks. And the difference is, we have the physiological symptoms that can be considered similar to that in depression and anxiety outside of a perinatal period. But things like being constantly tired, fatigued and having no energy whatsoever, which is synonymous with having a newborn regardless, having little to no interest in enjoyable activities, withdrawing from friends and family and social gatherings, sleeping difficulties again is very common in people when they have anxiety and depression.
I guess the difference being in the perinatal period though, that a woman may be physiologically exhausted and tired but is unable to sleep when they have a period where they are afforded a time when they can sleep, they just cannot—even though they want to. Then we have the flip side of that where some women will be sleeping too much and sleeping all the time. You've got difficulty focusing, concentrating, and remembering, and again, that's also synonymous with sleep deprivation when having a new baby. But we also see a lot of women being very easily irritated, agitated, and annoyed. That's another sign that we start to see. Then you have the symptoms associated with anxiety, your racing heart, your palpitations, shortness of breath, shaking.
I think one of the main things that we see from new-mum anxiety, as opposed to more of a clinical picture, is having persistent generalized worries about the health or the wellbeing of the baby. So being super hypervigilant around everything the baby's doing and I think a lot of first time mums will be very hypervigilant around when they bring baby home and making sure they're breathing and watching them very closely. But when that becomes all-encompassing to then affecting your ability to think, sleep, eat, and function because you're so worried about something going wrong, that then moves into a category where we're a bit more concerned.
Other things that make us concerned, though, are things like fears of being alone with the baby. That's something that a lot of women will report, that they feel absolutely terrified to be alone and this realization that all of a sudden, I'm particularly responsible for this human being. And that's an absolute overwhelming feeling that then develops into a real fear and then we have the constant sadness, crying, and then in the extreme end we have more irrational thoughts. A lot of women will —we even think it's as high as up to sixty-five per cent—will have really irrational thoughts and thoughts to either hurt themselves and/or their babies, which is a really frightening thing, I think, for people to experience, and it's even more frightening to share that.
Host: If you or someone you know is experiencing these feelings or symptoms for more than two weeks at a time it may be perinatal depression or anxiety.
Stacie Gill: A lot of perinatal mental health involves doing really careful assessment work of looking at a person's vulnerabilities and their prior history of mental health versus how they're presenting now. And we really have to weight that up, the difference between what we would expect from a new parent with fatigue, sleeplessness, difficulty focusing, or what people always call baby brain, or a loss of confidence or low self-esteem, particularly with first time parents, or the constant sadness and crying. I think the line is, though, when this is happening for more than two weeks at a time, this is when we start to raise some concerns. And I think if anybody is concerned about how they're feeling, or the way that their body is responding, or particularly having those irrational thoughts that are disturbing them, and they're overly worried about bub, and they're actually quite frightened to be with baby, or they're feeling an inability to form an attachment or bond with or feel connected to their baby, that's a real sign that we're moving into a different territory as opposed to usual adjustments to parenting.
Host: Perinatal anxiety and depression can be a frightening and isolating experience. Stacie says having a regular GP is important during and after pregnancy and should be one of the first people you talk to.
Stacie Gill: What we would always say to people is that it's really important to have a regular GP who knows you and knows your history and for continuity of care. But there's so many different places that women can go to get support. Antenatally, you have your midwives, you have different health clinics, you have medical staff—whether that be obstetricians or GPs—and then there's also your child health nurses, postnatally, who do your home visiting. It might be just starting at the GP and just asking, "Is this normal?" And, "Do I need some other help?" But any other trusted health professional or even being able to talk to family and friends and saying, "I'm not sure if I'm okay." But there's also some really wonderful support services out there such as PANDA.
PANDA a really great organization. It's a national perinatal anxiety, depression helpline. It's a 1300 number (1300 726 306) that women can call if they're a bit concerned, or they just can't get in to see their GP straightaway and they're a bit concerned about how they're feeling, and they just want to touch base with someone, and they've got very experienced perinatal, trained clinicians on the phone that you can talk to and say, "Is this okay?" And, "Should I be concerned or get some more assistance?"
Host: We've added a link to PANDA in our show notes. If you or someone you know is experiencing perinatal anxiety and depression, it's important to know that both are temporary and treatable. And that recovery can involve more than one kind of approach.
Stacie Gill: Look, the great thing is that it's such a treatable situation for people. It depends sort of, I guess, for women, what they're experiencing. Those women who are having a mild to moderate perinatal anxiety or depression, the first thing is psychoeducation. So, getting education from reputable health professionals around what's going on and what you can do to look after yourself. The other thing is structured psychological interventions—so evidence based psychological interventions, for example cognitive behavioural therapy, or interpersonal psychotherapies are really important treatments in the mild to moderate phase of perinatal depression and anxiety. For those women who may have a more moderate to severe presentation, that's often when we look at adding pharmacological treatments, for example psychotropic medications. But we always, always combine that with psychological therapy. So, the medication doesn't work in isolation.
They say that it takes a village to raise a child. It certainly does. Relying on support systems and wraparound services for women and families during this time is a really important part of treatment. Prioritizing rest is very important as well. It's something that we can't harp on enough about for women. So, with psychological interventions, you've got psychologists or perinatal counsellors who can assist with that sort of thing. Apart from that, we have continuity of professional caregivers is really important as well. So, it's likely to improve or even facilitate developing a therapeutic relationship if you have a caregiver who can follow you throughout that journey and I guess important aspects such as being able to develop trust, confidence, active listening, and empowerment.
Apart from that, other things are, your wellbeing and self-care—looking after yourself. We also have things like eating well, exercising, socialization. So, connecting with other people is really important even though it may be the last thing that people feel like doing.
Host: Stacie says self-love can also make a big difference and that new and expectant mums need to cut themselves a bit of slack and be kind to themselves.
Stacie Gill: Having self-compassion is really important in the treatment and recovery phase as well. Unfortunately, we have situations where a lot of people have very detailed birth plans or expectations around how they want their birth, pregnancy, to go, and unfortunately, if that doesn't go to plan, that can really upset the apple cart, so to speak. Just things like having self-compassion around things like thinking that your house will remain super clean and sparkly shiny and you'll be able to do everything that you have been able to do previously. Being kind to yourself around that is really important, an important part of developing, I guess, parts to your psychological tool kit, and your resilience, that will help you moving forward to recover from perinatal anxiety and depression.
Host: Keeping your mind engaged with new ideas and experiences is an important part of your mental wellbeing. Doing regular mental challenges helps train your mental pathways. Let's give it a go, can you solve this brain teaser? We'll reveal the answer at the end of the episode.
Until I am measured, I am not known.
Yet you miss me when I have flown. What am I?
The next story is a firsthand account of what it’s like to experience perinatal anxiety and depression.
It references suicide. If you or someone you know need support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 and if it’s an emergency, please call 000 immediately.
Jen: my name's Jen, I am currently the team leader at Moreton Bay for Peach Tree Perinatal Wellness. And I live in the Moreton Bay region.
Host: Peach Tree is a peer-led organisation that provides support for new parents. It's a space that helps to build positive emotional mental wellbeing. Jen says it wasn't until she connected with this organisation that she realised she experienced perinatal depression and anxiety.
Jen: I wasn't ever diagnosed, and I didn't really know that what I was experiencing was perinatal depression, until some years later when I put it all together. All I knew was that motherhood was not the idyllic and beautiful experience that I had expected it to be. And that I just wasn't really sure whether everybody was pretending. Like I really, really loved having a child, it just seemed to be like this thing that you just had to endure rather than really enjoy as such, like there were parts that I enjoyed, but it was really more just like an endurance race of like, "You can get through this."
It was probably a few years later, probably after I had my last child and I was part of Peach Tree, and I started to really reflect on what had happened. And it was then that I kind of went, "Oh, you know what, this was more than … it was hard to have a baby.” There were so many things that had happened that kind of started piecing it all together. And I guess the main thing that for me during that first pregnancy was that my own mother died. So, I was five months pregnant when she died. And that was really the start of it all. But it wasn't till much, much later that had sort of put it together and thought, "Hang on, this was probably more than just grieving for mum as such.”
Host: Reflecting back across all her pregnancies, Jen felt that she was experiencing perinatal depression over several years.
Jen: With the first pregnancy that, like I said, my mum died, and at that point when the baby was born, I became attached to that baby, regardless of whether that was a good thing or a bad thing, that baby was with me. And I really struggled to put her down. I carried her in a little carrier all of the time. I didn't really let other people hold her. I really sort of micro-focused in on her and she became my entire world. And then with my next pregnancy … a couple of years had passed and I had joined a gym and I was exercising. And I really understand the value that that had for me, the exercise, in that it really did help, not to clear my mind, but to clear my mind as such , like it was a bit of an outlet.
And so, with that next pregnancy, I had so much fun being pregnant with him. And then afterwards, when he was born, that was when I thought that I got postnatal depression. And I think I did have a touch with Dane, but it was totally different. And I went to my GP and I said, "I think I've got postnatal depression." And she said, "Go back to your gym." And I went back to my gym and to me, that sort of seemed to solve it. But in hindsight, I don't think it did. I think it was just that someone had told me it would fix it. So, I thought I was fixed.
And then I had the next two pregnancies. I had a pregnancy that I lost at nineteen weeks and six days. And then I had another pregnancy, my little girl that lost at seventeen weeks. By the time I fell pregnant with my fifth baby, I was so far from being okay, but I think I hid it really well. I think probably the people that knew me the best would have told you that I didn't hide it very well, but looking back, I don't think anybody really understood the level of distress that I was in. And I really, again, micro-focused in on that baby, but by the time I was ten weeks pregnant with him, I got introduced to Peach Tree. And that really, really helped, like the value of peer support has been amazing in my life.
Host: Jen says motherhood and her experience with perinatal depression and anxiety has changed the person that she was and has altered her personality. And while things are certainly better, Jen still feels anxious about her children from time to time.
Jen: It's only in the last few months that I've actually asked my husband and my sister, what that was like. Because it suddenly occurred to me that I probably contacted my sister nearly every day and then I think I just stopped, and that's what she said, that I sort of just didn't communicate in the same way. And my husband actually said to me, he said, "You're not even the same person that you were." I think that I thought that I was being this really normal, rational, human being. And I'm not saying that it wasn't, as such, but I always had lived in the loud and been quite social and wanted to go out, wanted to meet new people, and attach myself to new people, as such. And then I just didn't want to, and I really craved the quiet, and I really wanted to stay inside.
I think that they probably just saw this real flip of personality that I wasn't really aware that had happened until, like I said recently, when I said to them, "So what happened for you guys?" And I remember this point where I had had Tate and I always really wanted four children. And I said to my husband, "Well, we've got this one, now we can go back again and have another one." And he just said to me, "Are you kidding?" He said, "This family has been through enough." I didn't really see that. It's only a couple of days ago that I was just saying to my kids, "You never go outside." And they said, "Yeah, that's because you never let us go outside." And I was too afraid something would happen to them. I think even ten years on, I've got this real anxiety about where my children are, what they're doing, even if that is in the front yard, because I'm so afraid to lose something else or someone else.
Host: Caring for someone with perinatal anxiety or depression can be distressing and overwhelming. Jen says she still feels that it impacts her relationships and lifestyle.
Jen: What I find now is that I'm fairly easy going and particularly, say, like relationships with school teachers or people looking after my children, I'm generally fairly easy going, but when it comes to that point where something has happened, I actually really struggle to do that rationally because I have so much fear still of something happening to one of the children that I have left. Yeah, just that I do still have that real anxiety and that I really struggled to let them go out to explore. I try, but it is absolutely that kind of hang over of like, "I need to have you near me all the time, to watch what's going on for you, to make sure you're okay."
And I think that's quite overwhelming for my kids. I think it's overwhelming for my husband. Yeah. I think that my husband, like I said, he doesn't feel like he's married to the same person. And I think he likes me now, but I think for him, I do tend to dwell in that more serious space all of the time, in a different way to what I used to and I think he kind of misses, in some ways that naivety that I had. But yeah, that's what I think, that he kind of has this wife that's a bit more serious now and he misses that other part of me.
Host: The stigma and perception of what other people think can be one of the hardest parts about having a mental health condition. Jen thinks it's especially hard for people to admit that they are not okay.
Jen: I think you feel embarrassed as well. I think you kind of go, "Well, why can't I do it? What's wrong with me? Why did I fail in this way?" I think it's still seen as a failure, even though you know that it could happen to anybody. But I do think you kind of go, "Well, what was wrong with me, that it happened to me?" And you just want to be normal and you want to be able to cope. And it's really hard to admit to people. And I think that's why we still kind of cover it up so much. And we wear that mask.
I think that without the stigma, the ability to go and get help is freer, and you don't feel so ashamed about going to get. Because I think that's probably what it is. It's a shame thing, like, "I'm not okay, but who do I tell? Because I don't want them to take my baby. I don't want them to think I'm not a good mum. I'm worried about those kinds of things." I think that it would mean not only being able to go and get help, but being offered help, rather than it being something that you have to go and find as such. That maybe that's something that's offered to new mums, like, maybe that everybody's offered a meeting at Peach Tree or wherever, just to come and say, "Come and have a talk about, this is a really big time in your life. It's all new."
Host: Alongside taking care of her mental health condition Jen has found looking after her mental wellbeing helped with her overall health. By creating time to do yoga regularly Jen found that connecting with her mind and being physically active helped centre her thoughts.
Jen: A few years ago, I heard this girl speak. She was telling her trauma story and she said that she had realized that she had no mind-body connection, that she kind of lived up in her head, but she wasn't actually connected into her body. And that for me was this great, big realization of that's what I did as well. I lived in my body, but it wasn't actually connected into it. And it was quite easy to kind of just ignore everything that was going on because I lived in this fantasy world in my head. I actually started to do yoga and that helped me have a mind-body connection. And then, like I was saying before with the exercise, so lifting weights, I personally find that going to the gym, doing the yoga, physically moving my body, really helps clear all that stuff out of my mind.
And the other thing that I learnt through all this is that actually just talking to somebody whenever you need to talk is a really good thing to do. Because I think sometimes what I used to do was go, "Oh, I'm really not okay. And I really need to talk to somebody, but I'm so embarrassed. I'm so ashamed of the fact that I'm not okay. What I'll do is nothing instead. Or what I'll do is I'll eat this family bag of Maltesers and that will make me feel better.” And in reality, that never made me feel better, it only made me put on weight, which made me feel worse. And at the point that I had the miscarriage, we don't think in those terms, we think in the terms of when the baby's born, but we don't think about anything prior to that. So, I think just being able to understand that those reactions in that situation were totally normal and that that was okay to react in that way.
There was one time after the second miscarriage that I went to the hospital and I saw a social worker and she told me that I was fine. And that was probably actually the lowest point of my life. And that particular day, that was the day that I was kind of really contemplating suicide. Would I stay with the two children that I had or would I go to the two that I'd lost? And really kind of flipping that up in my hands, as to what would be best there. But that social worker had told me that I was fine. I think what that looks like is looking beyond what someone is telling you and allowing that space or giving that space to actually take that mask off and actually be truthful about what's happening for you.
Host: Treating mental health conditions can be complex and if you feel the advice or treatment you've been offered isn't what you need, talk to another healthcare professional for additional information and support. Jen encourages any new parent who doesn’t feel quite like themselves to reach out for support.
Jen: When you don't feel quite like yourself, when you maybe don't have interest in what you used to do anymore, when you don't necessarily feel bonded to your child, even though everything might seem like it should be great, when things don't feel like they are great. I think that's the time to go and seek some help.
Host: Jen leads a team of peer-support workers in her role at Peach Tree and is passionate about peer-led conversations as a key form of support for all new parents.
Jen: Peach Tree is totally one hundred per cent peer-led. All of the staff at Peach Tree have had their own perinatal mental health issues. We all have lived experience. And what we do basically is hold space for other parents to come and talk about what's going on for them. We have three sites. We have one in South Brisbane, one in North Brisbane, and one in the Moreton Bay region. And we run peer support groups. We call those JUST PEACHY. And that's basically like having a cup with some other mums. And you can actually talk about what's really going on.
Host: Beyond Blue research shows that forty-five per cent of fathers are not aware that men can also experience postnatal depression. But with one in ten dads experiencing postnatal depression it's an issue more men need to know about. Jen says that dads are largely forgotten, so Peach Tree recently started a peer lead dads’ group, which is a weekly barbeque where dads can talk about parenting challenges and mental health and wellbeing.
Jen: Dads are largely forgotten. I know that when I had my babies, they were always baby of Jen, not baby of Jen and Pete. And I think that that kind of does a bit of a disservice to dads and to mums because mums feel guilty all the time about not being with the baby or being with the baby. And I think that if we can really start to involve dad, is not just a secondary figure over in the corner, but actually involved in the parenting.
Host: Psychologist Stacie says that the best way to support someone who is experiencing perinatal depression or anxiety is to simply listen to them. And to make sure you also take care of yourself because being a support person can be challenging too.
Stacie Gill: I think like with anything, with mental wellbeing or mental health, being able to listen is really important, just being able to say, "Are you okay?" And offering practical support. A lot of the time, people don't necessarily want you to fix their problem because you can't fix their problem but it's being there and being compassionate, it's being open and again, telling them that, "I will be here for you and I will help you throughout this journey." So being non-judgemental despite what you may be seeing or hearing from your loved one who may be going through this. And seeking your own assistance as well because it can be a really difficult journey
We would suggest talking to your GP or your trusted health professional. PANDA also have a really great website and there's section that you can go to that'll talk to you about how to support a friend or partner who's actually suffering with perinatal mental health difficulties. We get a lot of really great feedback from a lot of our patients. There's also support for dads. So, if some of the mums are a bit concerned about how dad's going—funnily enough, they have a page called How is dad going?
Host: Helping someone when they're at their most vulnerable, says Stacie, is one of the best aspects of her job.
Stacie Gill: I think the best part of my job is in particular, I think most of us who get into psychiatry or psychology do it because we want to make a difference and I think perinatal mental health in particular is an area where you can really see difference and you can see change and you feel like you're making a difference to the earliest form of intervention. We talk about early intervention a lot, but I think this is the earliest form of intervention where we can try and help people in pregnancy and in early parenthood and their infants develop to be psychologically healthy and resilient humans.
Host: If you think you may be suffering from perinatal depression and anxiety, book into your GP and talk to them.
PANDA has a free helpline for women, men, and their families affected by perinatal mental illness.
If you suspect a loved one is experiencing perinatal mental health issues, the best thing to do is to sit down and talk to them. We’ve provided more information in our show notes.
The most important thing to remember is that perinatal depression and anxiety is treatable with the right plan and support.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts and need to talk to someone Lifeline can be contacted on 13 11 14.
Looking after your mental wellbeing during pregnancy and beyond is important and can ensure you're better connected to your mind and body. These stronger connections will ensure you're more aware of any changes you might experience with your mental health. Stacie says that connecting with supportive people and looking after your physical health are some of the best ways to build your mental resilience.
Stacie Gill: It's really connecting with supportive people. I think that's making time to connect with people who are supportive of you and your choices and avoiding negativity is really helpful. I think things like maintaining a nutritious diet is really important. Healthy mind, healthy body, as we say. Exercise as well is really important for women and some women have difficulty exercising in pregnancy, but by speaking with your health professional, there's a range of different things that women can do to maintain some level of fitness, and socialization. Connecting with others who really build you up and not bring you down's really important.
Mental wellbeing comes hand in hand with physical wellbeing, and so by looking after ourselves, like the saying goes, we need to put our oxygen mask on first before helping other people. And ensuring that particularly with new parents, that we now have somebody else that we have to look after as well, and it's not just looking after ourselves. It's looking after this new little human in our lives. I think being able to look after yourself gives you the capacity to be able to provide really attuned caregiving to your baby as well. And it also develops resilience in you, and it demonstrates to your child that self-care is a really important aspect of developing a resilient personality as a human. There's a range of reasons why we would certainly encourage that for people, regardless of pregnancy or birth or not—it's a really important aspect to overall wellbeing and functioning.
Host: If you'd like to know more about your mental wellbeing and how it's different to your mental health listen to episode one of season three. Improving your mental wellbeing doesn't have to be hard and can be achieved through simple activities like eating a yummy, healthy meal, or taking some me time - like you've just done by listening to our podcast. We have heaps of great resources and tips to help you improve your mental wellbeing on our website qld.gov.au/mentalwellbeing You'll find a link in our show notes.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of My Amazing Body - Mental Health and Wellbeing. If you enjoyed it, don't forget to leave us a rating or review in your podcast app!
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Thank you to Psychologist Stacie Gill and the team at the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service for lending their time and expertise to this episode. And thanks to Jen from Peach Tree, for sharing her lived experience with perinatal depression and anxiety. My Amazing Body is brought to you by Queensland Health. Thanks to my podcast colleagues, producer Jess, Carol our audio technician, and Helen on music and sound effects.