“Oh, how many weeks are you? You must be so excited” asked the lady in front of Anna in the queue at Woolies.

 

“Um, thirty four weeks” replied Anna

 

“Oh, not long now!”

 

Anna smiled at her. But inside she felt that clawing sensation and tightness in her throat. Her breathing started to quicken and she knew she had to get out of the supermarket. Leaving her full trolley she ran out and managed to find her car. Her breathing was shallow and fast; she couldn’t find her keys.

 

Damn. Come on, come on. Where are you?

 

At the bottom of her bag she found them. She unlocked the car and slid into her seat. She closed the door and started to focus on her breathing.

 

It started to slow. And silently, tears slid down her cheeks.

 

Pregnancy is a complex and vulnerable time for expectant mothers. They are going through major physical and emotional changes, which can increase the risk of depression and anxiety arising, even in women who have not experienced any before.

 

Unfortunately, mental health during pregnancy is not talked about very often, despite many expectant mums suffering its effects. The common belief that it’s just “pregnancy hormones” can feel dismissive, and as though it’s “normal” to feel down or anxious during pregnancy. But there are ways of identifying if mood changes are possible signs of perinatal depression and anxiety.

 

Some of the signs of depression and anxiety may overlap with some of the symptoms of pregnancy, such as tiredness, changes in sleep patterns or nausea. This can make it difficult to tell what to look out for. It is also possible that many women struggle to reach out for help, due to stigma and fear of judgment from others, if they were to say they were experiencing mental health difficulties.

So, what are some of the signs to look out for? Women may experience a

range of symptoms including; excessive worry, irritability, low mood, loss of interest in usual activities, a decrease in self-confidence, and withdrawing from friends and family.

 

They may also experience a range of other pregnancy-related anxiety symptoms, such as; fear of childbirth, fear of something physically or mentally wrong with their baby, and concern about their changing appearance.

 

These worries tend to be things that are not necessarily considered by those closest to the expectant mother, so it’s important to be aware of any worries you might be feeling, so that if the symptoms start impacting on your daily life, you can seek help to work through them.

 

Journaling or keeping a diary is a wonderful way of tracking your pregnancy journey and gives you a tangible way of looking back and making comparisons in your mood at different stages of your pregnancy.

 

If you, or someone you know have noticed some of these signs or symptoms, it can be helpful to find someone to talk to, whether it be family and friends, your GP, Midwife, Psychologist or the Perinatal Wellbeing Centre website at www.panda.org.au

 

Carla Anderson is a clinical psychologist working on the Sunshine Coast at www.perinatalchildfamilyhub.com  The practice has a focus on supporting individuals and families throughout the perinatal journey (preconception, pregnancy, and postnatal), child and youth counselling and women’s health concerns.

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