Emotions and feelings

Pregnancy can be a time of change for your body, your relationships and your emotions. Sometimes you will feel happy and ready for the changes a new baby will bring but at other times you might feel sad, overwhelmed or worried.

Being a new mum can be overwhelming as well as exciting. You’re getting to know your new arrival, possibly working outside the home or caring for other children as well. Sometimes you might wonder whether you’re doing the ‘right’ thing and coping as well as you should. Lots of new mums ask themselves the same questions.

Antenatal and postnatal depression

During pregnancy, if you’re feeling so sad it’s affecting your eating, sleeping and interest in life, you might be suffering from Antenatal Depression.

It can occur at any time during the pregnancy and can be dismissed as ‘hormones’. Some of the symptoms of antenatal depression are similar to normal changes which occur during pregnancy including:

  • Tiredness and fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite

Sometimes we think we can solve our own problems or should just get on with things and not ask for help. Pregnancy and becoming a new mum can be a time of change for your body, your relationships and your emotions.

It can help to talk with your partner, a trusted friend, family member or a health care professional when you’re feeling down or uncertain.

Depression can start after the birth of a baby; this is called Postnatal Depression (PND). It is most likely to occur in the first three months following the birth of the baby but can happen up to a year after the baby is born.

Postnatal Depression can be confused with the ‘baby blues’ which occur in up to 80% of women but these symptoms including anxiety, feelings of loneliness, irritability and tearfulness usually disappear after a few days.

Women suffering postnatal depression will experience symptoms consistently for a period of two weeks or more and everyday functions such as eating, sleeping and thinking will be affected.

Symptoms experienced by women with antenatal or postnatal depression can vary from person to person. Sometimes the symptoms of severe lack of sleep (sleep deprivation) can be similar to depression.

Symptoms can be both physical and psychological:

Physical

  • Changes in appetite
  • Lack of energy/motivation
  • Exhaustion
  • Headaches
  • Loss of interest in sex
  • Sleep disturbances

Psychological

  • Social withdrawal/apathy
  • Loss of confidence
  • Feelings of inadequacy, emptiness, failure as a mother
  • Sadness, tearfulness
  • Irrational fears
  • Feelings of anger, guilt, resentment, shame and irritability
  • Mental confusion, lack of concentration, poor memory
  • Not feeling the way you thought you would towards the baby

If you experience these symptoms for two weeks or longer you should seek help.

Sometimes it can be difficult to ask for help, especially when feeling inadequate is a common symptom of antenatal and postnatal depression: asking for or accepting help might make you worried about what others will think of you. Remember there are different types of help available.

You might want to consider some of the following tips to lift your mood:

  • Massage from partner/husband
  • Sending time with girlfriends/sisters
  • Spending time with family and friends
  • Being able to talk about your emotions
  • Some time for yourself (go for a walk or ask a friend to babysit)
  • Sometimes we all need a little help with practical things like housework and washing or just having someone to listen. Try to ask for help.
  • Talk with your midwife and doctor. Let people know how you are feeling.

Whether or not depression is an issue for you, support is important during pregnancy and after the baby arrives. You might like to consider one or more of the following support options:

Group support

Support from other new mothers may be helpful and you might consider joining a playgroup or mother’s group to share experiences and help overcome feelings of isolation: www.playgroupqueensland.com.au. Call the Playgroup Association of Queensland on 1800 171 882

These groups are not for everyone, you might like to consider a local walking/ Parents with Prams walking group with a focus on fitness and exercise, rather than on the baby.

Participating in online groups is another option. It is possible to remain anonymous with the format making it easier to express negative emotions, although these forums do not offer professional support and the views and beliefs expressed may be very different from your own.

Doctor/GP

Your General Practitioner can listen to your concerns and link you to other services which are available. At first you might feel uncomfortable discussing your concerns so consider taking your partner or a friend with you to the appointment.

Support from your partner

mother-baby-father-walking

Sometimes you might wonder if you are doing the right thing and coping as well as you should. It can help to talk with your partner, let them know how you are feeling. They are probably adjusting too but can provide extra support. Just having someone listen to you, without needing to solve the problem/s is helpful. Lots of people might offer you advice – some helpful, some not so helpful. Try to discuss how you are feeling with your partner or close family member. 

The support offered by your partner might be emotional or practical or both. Remember, if a partner is taking on extra duties in addition to their normal work commitments they may start to feel overwhelmed. It is important a partner looks after their own emotional needs by seeking help if it all gets ‘too much’.

Support from family and friends

Women can find it difficult to ask for or accept assistance and family and friends may stay away because they are afraid of interfering.

Family and friends might be able to help you by:

  • Listening – talking with a friend about your feelings and your circumstances
  • Preparing a nutritious meal for your family
  • Phoning you regularly to see how you are

Support for you

It might be difficult for you to tell someone how you are feeling or to ask for help but there are telephone services available which are confidential and anonymous including:

Women’s Health Queensland Wide provides general advice and information in addition to the Midwife Check-in, a free telephone based service through which women have access to a caring midwife to support you on your journey to be a parent. 

Last updated: 20 January 2016

The content of this publication ("the information") is provided for information purposes only. The information is provided solely on the basis that recipients should verify all the information provided. The information is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease or condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic or clinical care purposes. The information is not a substitute for your own health professional's advice and treatment in relation to any specific patient issue. Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. does not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by the use of or reliance on the information. While we have made every effort to ensure the information is accurate, complete and current, Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. does not guarantee and assumes no legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currency or completeness of the information. External resources referred to in this publication should not be taken to be an endorsement or a recommendation of any third party products or services offered and the views or recommendations provided by these external resources do not necessarily reflect those of Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc.