Perinatal Anxiety and Depression

Logo for The Pink Elephants Support NetworkGuest post from The Pink Elephants Support Network Co-Founder and Director Samantha Payne - This week raises awareness around Perinatal Anxiety and Depression (PNDA). A lot of us know a friend or a loved one who has experienced PNDA and it can be heartbreaking to watch them struggle through those early stages of parenthood. Did you know that after suffering a miscarriage or perinatal loss you are 33 per cent more likely to receive a clinical diagnosis of Perinatal Anxiety or Depression?

Miscarriage is a significantly traumatic event that induces an intense period of emotional distress. The very nature of miscarriage as a taboo topic in society perpetuates the myth that you should grieve in isolation. The problem with this is that women and their partners do not seek support when they need it most which can have devastating and lasting effects.

I experienced just this. I was robbed of the first four months of my baby boy’s life. I was in an exhausting cycle of negative thoughts and anxiety that I couldn’t see a way out of. To make matters worse I felt I could not ask for support as I was meant to be happy and grateful that I had my rainbow baby in my arms. After two miscarriages and no counselling, I had buried my grief and ignored the anxiety I felt through my subsequent healthy pregnancy by ‘putting on a brave face’. In hindsight, I wishI had sought help sooner.

The anxiety that subsequent pregnancies bring after one or more losses is to be expected and sadly support in this area is lacking. The Pink Elephants Support Network supports women who are pregnant again after loss through a private support group on Facebook which is moderated by their ambassadors who have all been through loss and subsequent pregnancies themselves. They have been there; they understand.

The ability to connect with other women who are experiencing the same level of anxiety and emotional turmoil also validates that what you are feeling is normal. It can help you to feel less alone and more supported but also can flag that you may need additional support in the form of counselling. If you think you do need extra support, please see your GP or your antenatal care provider for a mental health care plan.

PANDA have launched their Mental Health Checklist for Expecting and New Parents.This online mental health checklist is an easy way for expecting and new parents who are struggling with their new role to find out whether their feelings are normal or something more serious. If it is more serious, the checklist will point them to the help they need and also help them talk to their doctor or other health professional. The checklist is anonymous, online, quick and easy and it will help expecting and new Mums and Dads to know if they are experiencing a mental health issue.

Finally, Genea Fertility Counsellor Evelyn Zwahlen says, “It's perfectly normal and understandable to feel anxious and nervous when you are pregnant after experiencing a miscarriage. Try to remember that every pregnancy is different and the fact your last pregnancy ended in loss does not mean this one will. Lean on your support network and try to be kind to yourself - don't pressure yourself to be worry free. The challenge is to accept and cope with anxiety, one day at a time, not to put pressure on yourself to make it go away.”

Remember, Genea, The Pink Elephants Support Network and The Gidget Foundation are here for you as are many other organisations and your immediate #circleofsupport
 
“There is no shame in admitting you don’t feel right mentally and you need some extra help”