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Know what to look out for when your emotional wellbeing changes

01 June 2022

Mental health Perinatal mental health Community services
Perinatal anxiety and depression affects men too says Psychiatrist Dr Bo Egan.

Adjusting to parenthood can be challenging for many new parents. In addition to learning how to change nappies and settle an upset baby, navigating sleep disruption, changing routines and reduced freedom and flexibility can be overwhelming. 

Psychiatrist Dr Bo Egan says while society is becoming more aware of perinatal depression or anxiety among mothers, there is less awareness that new fathers can be affected too. 

“As a lot of the focus tends to be on the mother’s wellbeing soon after birth, new fathers can forget about looking after themselves,” Dr Egan says.

“There are some different factors that can affect the experiences of new dads. Fathers typically don’t have the opportunity to spend extended time off work with their new baby, and they can also feel additional pressure to provide financial support for their growing family. All of this can add to the stress of being a new dad.”

If you start to experience difficulties impacting your daily life, relationships or work, it’s important to speak with your GP and seek support.   

Signs of perinatal anxiety or depression:

  • Worry or fear that interrupts daily tasks
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Consistent low mood, feeling numb or negative
  • Constant tiredness or exhaustion
  • Ongoing headache or high physical stress levels
  • Loss of interest in activities that normally would be enjoyable
  • Changes in appetite
  • Sleep problems (not related to the baby)
  • Ongoing irritability, anger or moodiness
  • Emotional withdrawal from your partner, baby, family, friends
  • Fear of caring for the baby
  • Not wanting to communicate with your partner, family and friends
  • Feeling isolated
  • Use alcohol or drugs to cope
  • Thoughts of harm to self or baby 

Dr Egan says seeking support early can prevent problems from becoming worse. “Without help, perinatal anxiety and depression can impact the bond you have with your child and other children and this can have long term physical and psychological impacts on them.

“If you recognise that you may be experiencing emotional difficulties, talking about it with your partner, a trusted friend and your GP is a good first step.”

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Psychiatrist Dr Bo Egan
Dr Bo Egan - Psychiatrist
Dr Bo Egan is a Psychiatrist who works at St John of God Raphael Services in Geelong. Her areas of interest include perinatal mental health as well as adult and youth mental health.