Healthy living

Tips for getting professional help for perinatal anxiety or depression

Anxiety and depression are fairly common during the perinatal period (that is, both during pregnancy and after the birth of a baby). Around 1 in 4 Australians experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, but the perinatal period, in particular for women, is a time of increased risk.

Research also shows around 1 in 7 mothers and around 1 in 10 fathers will experience postnatal depression, which for some people may have actually begun during the pregnancy.

The sooner help is sought for perinatal anxiety and depression, the better. Below are some things to consider when looking for professional help.

  • Ask other parents who they recommend, but don't assume all professionals suit all people. The person who was right for someone else may not suit you.
  • If you aren’t making progress with the professional you are seeing, it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you or with them. You may need to talk to a few different professionals to find the one whose ideas and approach suit you best.
  • Not all health professionals have training and expertise in working with antenatal and postnatal women. You may need to ask your GP or child health nurse for a referral to someone who specialises in the area.
  • When you see a health practitioner, ask for their views about depression and anxiety. Ask about how they assess and treat it, and what their management plans would mean for you and your family.
  • Look for someone who listens to you in a supportive and non-judgemental way. If they seem to understand what you're going through, then you'll feel safer asking questions.
  • If you're not happy with the person you’re seeing, don't be afraid to look around for someone else – but first think carefully about why you want to change. Ask yourself:
    • Do I feel comfortable with this therapist?
    • Do I feel understood by this therapist?
    • Is a new therapist going to know more or be able to do more?
    • Are my expectations of therapy realistic?
    • Am I expecting to recover immediately?
    • Am I expecting the therapist to solve all my problems right away?

Perhaps frustration with your progress is the main issue. If so, discuss this directly with your therapist.

Remember, the sooner you seek help, the better. It’s hard enough to cope with all the changes a baby brings without struggling with your emotional health too.

Where to get help

To find a mental health professional:


Acknowledgements

Women and Newborns Health Service


This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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