"Try to tell the truth about what you’re feeling and if the person you’re telling it to can’t help, find someone who can."
If you’re a new parent or expecting a baby, and you’re worried about how you’re feeling, then talking to your doctor can be a good place to start. Below we provide tips on finding a doctor, sharing your concerns and what to expect from a consultation.
It’s common to feel a bit worried about sharing your concerns with a health professional. Please bear in mind that many people struggle at this time of their lives: anxiety or depression affects up to one in five expecting or new mums and one in ten expecting or new dads. It can happen to anyone, and is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, seeking help when you need it shows that you want the best for yourself and your family. And the earlier you can get the right support, the more likely you are to feel better quickly.
There are many different services and health professionals that can help. If you are concerned about yourself or your partner or loved one, a doctor (that is, a General Practitioner or GP) is often a good place to start. They should be able to give you non-judgemental support, assessment, diagnosis, and ongoing care and treatment. They can also refer you to specialists such as a counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
Do you have a regular doctor with whom you can share your concerns? If not, it’s worth looking for a doctor with a special interest in mental health. Ask family and friends for recommendations of doctors who understand mental health, or ring local practices and ask about their doctors. We can help: call the PANDA National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline on 1300 726 306 and we will help you to find a doctor in your area.
If possible, request a double appointment and let them know it’s about a possible mental health issue. Don’t hesitate to ask for an urgent appointment or cancellation. Mental health issues can be serious, and symptoms can change quickly (see below for what to do if you feel worse before the appointment). Ask for an interpreter if you need one. Many people prefer to talk about sensitive issues in their first language, even if they can speak some English
Consider taking a trusted person with you to the appointment, like a partner, friend or family member . A common symptom of anxiety or depression is difficulty taking in or remembering information. A trusted person can take notes for you, and might help you to feel more confident about sharing your concerns.
People often forget things that they wanted to tell or ask their doctor during their appointment. It can be helpful to prepare by writing a list of your symptoms, concerns, and questions.
The PANDA website has a set of Checklists that can help you better understand what you or your loved one are feeling. On completing a Checklist, you have the option to print or email yourself your responses. You can use this information as a tool to get the right support. For example, sharing it with your doctor can help you to remember potential symptoms you identified through the Checklist.
If you’re still not sure about sharing your thoughts or feelings with your doctor, it can help to talk with a loved one or friend first. You can also call the PANDA Helpline. Our counsellors are skilled at helping you to explore your feelings, and to practice aloud the things you want to tell your doctor.
It’s important to tell your doctor about any changes in your thoughts, feelings and behaviours since becoming an expecting or new parent. Remember, these things do not make you a bad parent, but are potential symptoms of a common, treatable health condition. Let the doctor know if you have felt this way and/or been diagnosed with depression, anxiety or another mental health condition before. It’s also important to tell the doctor if you have had previous thoughts of suicide, or if you have lost someone to suicide.
Your doctor should be non-judgemental, respectful and supportive.. They should assess you by asking questions about your symptoms, your and your family’s mental health history, your physical health and lifestyle (e.g. exercise, sleep, use of alcohol or drugs), your living situation, major emotional or psychological experiences, and treatment preferences.
After assessment, your doctor should be able to provide a diagnosis (although sometimes more tests are needed before they can make a diagnosis) and a treatment plan. They should explain your different treatment options, and why they are referring you to any specialist services.
You have the right to fully understand your diagnosis and recommended treatment. You could ask:
Your doctor can refer you to services like counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers and occupational therapists. They might give you a mental health care plan, which gives you some Medicare rebates to help you access counselling. For a higher level of care, they might refer you to a Mother Baby Unit — a hospital unit where you stay with your baby — or to another hospital-based psychiatric service.
Not all doctors have the same experience, confidence or qualifications in supporting patients with mental health issues. If the first doctor you see doesn’t help you enough, please don’t give up. You have a right to get the support you need, to feel better and enjoy your parenting journey.
Call the PANDA National Helpline any time: to find a doctor or other service, for supportive counselling, or to discuss other support options like playgroups or support groups. You can call for yourself or about someone else you are concerned about.
If you need urgent help before your appointment, call emergency services on triple zero (000) or go to your local hospital emergency department. The symptoms and severity of mental illness can sometimes change quickly. Don’t hesitate to seek urgent help if needed.
You can call the PANDA National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline for support and ongoing counselling on 1300 726 306, Monday to Friday, 9am to 7.30pm AEST/ADST. You can call about yourself or someone else.
If you need someone to talk with outside PANDA’s hours, call Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467, Suicide Line on 1300 651 251, or Lifeline on 131114.
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