Pregnancy in lockdown: “My depression felt amplified” | HerCanberra

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Pregnancy in lockdown: “My depression felt amplified”

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Being pregnant or becoming a new parent brings an extreme range of emotions at the best of times—excitement and exhilaration to uncertainty, doubt and outright terror.

Add to the mix a global pandemic, months of lockdown and reduced support networks and these feelings can quickly become overwhelming.

Canberra local Antonette Gaffney—one of ACT’s Community Champions for PANDA (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia, which supports women and their families who are suffering from perinatal anxiety or depression)—is currently living this experience as part of the ACT’s ongoing lockdown, now 36 weeks pregnant with her second child.

As a community champion for PANDA since 2019, Antonette has been a confident advocate for perinatal* anxiety and depression having experienced crippling anxiety and depression during her first pregnancy. However, this lived experience could not prepare her for the uncertainly of living with antenatal depression during a pandemic.

“In the early months of my second pregnancy, I felt in control of myself and my mental health because I knew what to expect—I identified my triggers early, felt confident speaking to support services and got the treatment I needed early.”

“What I didn’t expect was to be hit with severe vomiting and nausea (until week 26), extended periods of lockdown (including a two-week quarantine due to having been at an exposure site) and trying to home school my son and two step-daughters while working from home. My emotions were amplified. They say every pregnancy is different—and this has been beyond what I could have imagined!”

PANDA’s Chief Executive, Julie Borninkhof, says the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant increase in the calls it has received in the past 18 months.

“People that are calling our helpline who have had a history of perinatal anxiety or depression and now having their second or third babies and are really falling apart as a result of not being able to have parents there,” said Ms Borninkhof.

With Perinatal Mental Health Week 2021 fast approaching—7-13 November 2021—it is timely for new, soon-to-be parents, and their families and communities, to take stock of their mental health and wellbeing.

PANDA’s web-based resources and services are free, online and can be accessed anonymously – providing a useful entry point for people who may be struggling but aren’t sure where to start looking for help.

“When I realised I wasn’t doing so well, I used PANDA’s online mental health checklist to help take stock of where I was at. My results are what motivated me to reach out to my doctor. In the current environment, with so many people still in lockdown, PANDA’s easy-to-access, practical and online tools are more helpful than ever. Support is literally available at your fingertips,” said Ms Gaffney.

For further information on PANDA’s free support services—which also include a dedicated helpline for women, men and their families affected by perinatal anxiety and depression and a large range of online resources, including information on support services in your local area, please visit:

*perinatal: a collective term that refers to both antenatal depression (before the baby is born) and postnatal depression (after the baby is born).

Feature image: Antonette and her two-year-old son, James

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