Postnatal depression: is parenthood making you sad?

By Lisa Knott, Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA)

Pregnancy and the arrival of a new baby is usually a happy event but for many expectant mums and new parents it can be a time of great stress, sadness and confusion. Read our expert advice on postnatal depression.

While it’s normal to experience some difficulties adjusting to pregnancy and motherhood, negative feelings that last for more than two weeks and impact on your ability to function indicate it’s time to get help.

Up to one in 10 mums-to-be experience depression during pregnancy. And one in seven new mums and one in 20 new dads are now diagnosed with postnatal depression each year in Australia. Even more experience anxiety.

Many of them struggle in silence without seeking help. These illnesses can have a devastating impact on the well being of new parents and their children and can affect nearly every area of a mum or dad’s life including relationships, their ability to work and care for themselves, their baby and others. However, help is readily available and early intervention and the right support leads to a faster recovery.

Often mums feel guilt and shame when they are not coping with what is generally viewed as a happy time. This, along with media images that reinforce unrealistic expectations of motherhood, can make it harder for new parents to ask for help. So it’s critical that those around them, including friends, family and colleagues understand the signs to look out for and where to go for support.

PANDA’s National Perinatal Depression Helpline is available for families across Australia. Panda's trained counsellors provide vital confidential support when people need it most and connect them with other local specialist support services like GPs, psychologists and playgroups for ongoing care.

While many people still think of postnatal depression and anxiety as purely hormonal conditions, there are a wide range of biological, social and psychological factors that contribute to mums and dads developing these illnesses. A different combination is responsible for each person’s unique experience and it’s important that that all of these are addressed for recovery. These can include: financial hardship, social isolation, unmet expectations of motherhood and previous experiences of depression or anxiety.

The symptoms of postnatal depression and anxiety also differ for each person. Common symptoms include:

  • Crying
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep disturbances unrelated to the baby
  • Feeling overwhelmed or out of control
  • Fear of being alone or
  • Negative obsessive thoughts

These simple strategies can help new and expecting parents to look after their well being during this precious time:

  • Seek help and accept it if you don’t feel the way you expected to for more than two weeks
  • Keep talking to your partner and others about your feelings and concerns. PANDA's Helpline, a professional counselor, doctor, friend or family member may provide this support
  • Take time out to do things that you enjoy and that nurture you
  • Eat well, exercise and get adequate sleep
  • Reduce expectations for yourself and your partner

If you are concerned about yourself or someone else, call the PANDA National Perinatal Helpline 1300 726 306, visit or see a GP or your Maternal Child Health Nurse. For more strategies on looking after you and recovering from postnatal depression visit the PANDA website.

Note: The views and advice expressed on this blog post are those of the author and are not representative of the Pregnancy Babies & Children's Expo.

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