Expecting parents experience a range of feelings and emotions that might seem to contradict each other. There is excitement and joy, but also nervousness and uncertainty. There are physical changes to get used to, as well as other potentially stressful adjustments to be made.
It is just as important to look after your emotional and mental health as your physical health. Many expecting parents focus on their physical health and forget to mentally prepare themselves for becoming a parent, whether it is the first time or they already have children.
There is a lot to get used to as the baby develops, so it can be a vulnerable time for many expecting mums and dads. However, there are a number of additional factors which could make an expecting parent more likely to experience mental health concerns, including fears caused by the pandemic.
PANDA has recently published a resource for expecting and new parents who are worried or experiencing symptoms of anxiety related to COVID-19 and other global crises and disasters. This contains tips and advice compiled by PANDA’s team over many years drawing on evidence-based research and the experience of our callers and others who have accessed PANDA’s services. If you’re expecting a baby and experiencing difficult feelings about it, some of the self-care tips may help.
Risk factors for antenatal anxiety and depression
Antenatal anxiety and depression is a common illness affecting up to one in ten women during pregnancy, and up to one in twenty men. It affects women and men from all walks of life, regardless of age or history. If you are expecting a baby there will already be a lot of changes to adjust to. So a degree of anxiety and 'ups and downs' is normal. However there are a number of risk factors making some women and men more vulnerable to antenatal anxiety and depression.
- Prior history of mental illness
- Lack of support (including partner, family and broader social)
- Past abuse or trauma
- Unplanned pregnancy
- Stressful events
- Past conception/pregnancy complications
- Absence of own mother
- Pre-existing physical illness
Many expecting mums and dads experiencing these risk factors make their way through the changes that occur during pregnancy relatively easily and transition into parenthood with few complications. But we know that many others don’t, and that this can develop into antenatal anxiety or depression.
It’s also important to recognise that many women and men develop symptoms during pregnancy who have minimal or no risk factors. Just because these risk factors do not apply to someone does not mean cannot develop antenatal anxiety or depression.
If you believe you might be experiencing symptoms of antenatal anxiety or depression – or are simply confused about what you are feeling – seek help as early as you can. And remember, there is nothing wrong with you. What you are feeling is real. And it is treatable and you will be able to feel better.