Depression and Anxiety

Depression and its related symptoms are much more common than you might expect.

Anxiety, stress and general difficulties adjusting to parenthood may occur during pregnancy, or after you have had your baby.

On average, up to 1 in 7 mums and 1 in 10 dads will experience post or perinatal depression and anxiety.

Many parents may be suffering from depression and anxiety and aren’t getting help because they feel embarrassed or ashamed. Not getting help can interfere with the enjoyment every parent is entitled to during parenthood. By seeking support early you’re taking very important steps to help yourself feel better, sooner – which is better for you and your baby.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is at risk of anxiety and depression?

There are many factors that may contribute to a parent being more ‘at risk’ of experiencing depression and anxiety. These include:

  • Personal or family history of mental illness
  • Major life changes

For example: grief, loss, moving house and changing or losing a job

  • Pregnancy difficulties
  • Birth complications
  • Lack of practical, financial and/or emotional support
  • Past history of abuse or neglect
  • Child health concerns
  • Drug or alcohol problems

What are some of the symptoms of anxiety and depression?

As parents we can all experience different types of stresses and may feel anxious from time to time. Some of the more severe symptoms of anxiety that require awareness include:

  • Constant anxious thoughts and worries
  • Constant irritability and restlessness
  • Taking a long time to fall asleep
  • Anxiety or fear that stops you from going out
  • Anxiety or fear over your baby’s health
  • Panic attacks
  • Overwhelming feelings of panic that are difficult to control
  • Tense muscles, heart palpitations and a tight chest

What should I look for with depression?

Depression comes in different forms. You may be experiencing depression if you display symptoms like:

  • Mood changes

These are lasting, and often out of character

  • Sleep changes

Disturbed sleep or racing thoughts at night

  • Changes in appetite

Under or overeating

  • Feelings of inadequacy, failure or inability to cope
  • Feelings of isolation and loneliness
  • Inability to bond with your baby
  • Fear of something happening to your baby
  • No energy, low motivation, or hyperactivity
  • Inability to enjoy things you used to, or withdrawal from social contacts
  • Harmful thoughts

Either self-harm or harm to your baby

  • Wanting to escape

Do I need professional help?

If you’re experiencing some of the changes listed above, or feel an acute, extended distress that impacts your daily ability to function, you may need to speak with a health professional. They’ll work with you to help identify the best approach to improve your mood, through a tailored plan of action.

Professional help may come from your GP, a counsellor, or your child and family health nurse. During the consultation, you may be asked to provide your family history, and/or complete a questionnaire on your feelings.

The importance of seeking help early:

If you think you might be experiencing depression or anxiety, seek help early. Doing so has been proven to have many benefits, including:

  • Feeling ‘well’ sooner
  • Improved family relationships

With your partner, baby, and/or other children

  • Greater enjoyment of parenthood
  • Enjoying new experiences
  • Preventing bigger problems

Why is my mental health important?

Taking good care of yourself is the most important thing to take good care of your baby. Taking steps towards personal self-care makes a real difference when adjusting to your new role as a parent.

  • Take time out for you

Sit outside in the fresh air with a cup of tea, go for a walk, take a relaxing bath, or do something that you enjoy.

  • Share your experience

Meeting and chatting with other new parents offers a valuable source of company and support. The Resourcing Parents website can be helpful.

  • Rest when you can

Even reading a magazine for a few minutes can provide the mental break you need.

  • Eat healthy

A well balanced diet will give you the right energy to care for your child.

  • Exercise

Try to fit in some physical activity each day. This could be a walk with the pram, home yoga, or a gym membership.

  • Accept help

If friends and family offer to pitch in, use your free time for self-care.

  • Reach out

If you ever feel overwhelmed or that you can’t cope, don’t be afraid to seek the help of a healthcare professional.

How can others help?

Sometimes you may become so preoccupied with the needs of your baby, you don’t even realise you’re struggling. You may recognise your feelings, but not know how to talk about them. Often, it’s a partner or family member who first notices something’s wrong.

Whatever the situation, we know having a supportive partner, family member or friend makes a real difference when a parent is overwhelmed. If you’re in the position to help a vulnerable parent, we recommend:

  • Listen

Don’t be judgemental with your opinions and advice.

  • Accept

Let them know you want to understand how they are feeling, and that you’re there for support.

  • Offer support

Offer to babysit – or even help out around the place. Cooking, cleaning and washing are great ways to pitch in! Be mindful to help out without taking over.

  • Suggest time out

Let them know it’s OK to take personal time.

  • Encourage them to seek help

Let them know it’s alright to seek professional assistance if they need it.

I'd like more information and support. Who can I contact?

  • Karitane Careline

We are with you every step of the way

1300 CARING | 1300 227 464

  • Beyond Blue

An organisation promoting good mental health

  • Lifeline

24-hour counselling

131 111

  • Your local community health centre
  • Your general practitioner
  • Your child and family health nurse


Other useful websites include:

Support for perinatal depression

Centre of Perinatal Excellence

Postnatal depression

Children of Parents with a Mental Illness

Related Topics

Mental Health Services

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Depression or anxiety with the stress and difficulties adjusting to being a parent can occur during pregnancy or postnatal. Many parents suffer in silence, seeking help early is really important.

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Becoming a parent is a time of change with new challenges and responsibilities. Stress and difficulties adjusting to being a parent can occur during pregnancy or postnatally.

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Need to talk to someone?

Call Karitane Careline on 1300 227 464 or 9794 2350

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