Treatment for Perinatal Anxiety and Depression

It’s very common to feel overwhelmed and stressed at this time, so it’s a good idea to have a conversation with a trusted person.  Sometimes mothers and fathers can find help in supportive friends, relatives or health professionals.

Often offloading fears and frustrations is all that is needed.  And a good listener can be a great sounded board, someone who might be able to help you work through how you’re really feeling.  Sometimes emotional and practical support is all that is needed.  However, if you are worried, there is treatment available for Perinatal Anxiety. Make an appointment with your early childhood nurse or GP as they will have the professional skills to support you or refer you to further help if necessary.

Friends and family can support families in many ways.

Emotional support:  Take time to listen and acknowledge how the mother  is feeling.  Don’t minimise her feelings or tell her ‘to snap out of it’ or ‘get over it’.  Don’t try to ‘fix’ her by offering solutions. While the crippling feelings will eventually resolve , the sufferer may feel they will never end.  Let her know that you will be there for the journey and that while recovery can be slow, there is hope and in time she will feel better.  Find out as much as you can about this illness  –  you may also need support.  Support the mother in her treatment.  Reassure her that she is not a ‘bad’ mother.  She has an illness for which there is treatment.  Try to avoid making big decisions at this time.

Practical help:  Provide some meals (either home cooked or take away), help with housework, eg ironing, offer to do some shopping.  Looking after the baby for a while can make a big difference to struggling parents  –  enabling them the opportunity to rest / spend time with each other / go to a doctors appointment etc.  Offer to go to any appointment with the mother or father.

Self care takes many forms and might include:

  • First and foremost find some time for yourself and some special time to share with your partner
  • Exercise
  • Meeting up with friends for a coffee
  • A meal or a movie with your partner
  • Having a hair cut
  • A dinner with friends
  • Finding a group of mothers where you can spend time together and share your joys a well as your struggles

Professional Care and Treatment

Professionals who can help include:

  • Child and Family Health Nurse
  • General Practitioner
  • Midwife
  • Obstetrician

These health professionals can assess parents and can refer mothers and fathers to the following specialists if they require further support.

  • psychologist
  • psychiatrist
  • social worker
  • specialist support groups

and in Sydney

  • Gidget House providing free psychological support for families experiencing emotional distress during pregnancy and early parenthood.

There are many effective treatments for perinatal anxiety and depression.

Treatment includes psychological therapies that may be combined with pharmacological treatment.

Counselling There are many different counselling options which may include

Psychotherapist, Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Social Worker, General Practitioner.  Counselling alone can be successful in mild to moderate cases.

Medication in conjunction with counselling has been shown to be successful in treating perinatal mood disorders.  There are now a number of medications that are safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.  If you are on medication it is important for you to continue taking it as discontinuing medication abruptly without medical supervision may cause problems.

Partners  It is important to include significant others in the care of the mother (or father) who is unwell. They may also be struggling and feeling vulnerable and will often need support as well. Partners play an important role in caring, supporting and understanding.  Stronger relationships and more resilient families are built around an inclusive model of care.

Mother and Baby Units  In some situations, for example if a parent has thoughts of harming themselves or their baby, hospitalisation may be necessary. There are Mother and Baby Units in some public and private hospitals, where mothers can room with their baby while receiving treatment in a supportive environment.

With the right treatment the vast majority of parents will recover fully and go on to live happy lives with their baby and family.

Click here for our Get Help section which has more information on programs and organisations that can help.