Motherhood is not perfect, its never going to be perfect, there’s no such thing as perfection in this area. If I’m ever asked for advice, I always say “lower your expectations,” it’s honestly the best thing I ever did!
Perinatal Depression & Anxiety Awareness Week is coming up, November 11-17 2018.
I wanted to find out more about perinatal anxiety and depression and what we can do to help, so caught up with Nicole Highett, COPE Founder and Executive Director.
COPE is the Australian Peak body in Pre and Post Natal Emotional and Mental Health.
This is a time in a woman’s life, during the time of having a baby, when we know women are most likely to develop mental health problems. Aside from the physical changes, there’s lots of expectations and stresses that come with becoming a mother.
We all have times when we might feel sad or down and that’s normal. But there’s times in life when that stress goes further and we call it ‘distress’. Distress is when we don’t have the resources to keep managing the stress that comes upon us, which can lead to the development of conditions like anxiety and depression.
We know from research in Australia that up to 1 in 5 women will experience anxiety during pregnancy and also the first year after having their baby. Depression can affect up to 1 in 10 women during pregnancy, and up to 1 in 7 women in the first year after having a baby.
Anxiety and Depression can also occur together in a lot of cases, a lot of women experience anxiety and depression at the same time, which is very, very debilitating.
There is a real fear, or dare I say shame, when you’re a new mum and you are going through feelings of distress. For many reasons we don’t seek help when we are feeling this way. So, how can we help?
Be aware: If you do have friends or family who are pregnant or with babies, being aware that these conditions are common is the first step. Being aware that this is a very challenging time in life in lots of areas - home, workplace, friendships, etc. It’s changes in all of these areas that increase the likelihood of this anxiety and depression occurring.
Signs and symptoms: Quite often the signs are put down to being part of having a baby. For example, in pregnancy, having a racing heart, feeling on edge a lot of the time. These are classic early symptoms of anxiety, however quite often people put them down to hormonal changes.
Similarly, anxiety and depression in the post natal period - feeling sad or down, finding it difficult to cope from day to day, being unable to sleep well - this is put down to simply having a baby. So in the early stages signs are easily missed.
In a COPE survey, 74% of women said they didn’t seek help until they reached breaking point. The reasons why varied,
Not reading the signs
High expectations when having a baby
No reference point to being a mother as it’s all new
Looking at the beautiful ads on TV, in print or on social media. This impacts your perception of how Motherhood should be and when it doesn’t reflect what you’re actually experiencing you can feel like you are failing. We’re then reluctant to talk about it for fear of being judged, or fear of being a failure as a Mother.
However, if you look at the figures, you would be right to assume there would be other Mums in your Mums groups, or community groups, that are feeling the same way, just not speaking up. Opening up gives others permission to also talk, helps them to realise ‘it’s not just me.’
READY TO COPE:
COPE have developed a free fortnightly email guide that women can sign up to at any stage during pregnancy, or your first year of having baby. The Ready to COPE guide provides insights and strategies that are relevant to you at the time, helping you to be equipped and empowered. You can find the guide and sign up at readytocope.org.au