IT’S thought to be one of the most natural things in the world, but that doesn’t mean childbirth and those first few months are easy to adjust to.
Mothers, and sometimes fathers, can find themselves experiencing anxiety and depression, which they accept as their new normal.
However, it doesn’t have to be like that, and there are services available to help them.
During Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Awareness (PANDA) Week, PANDA has launched a brand new online tool for expecting and new parents and their loved ones, who are worried about their mental health.
READ MORE: Health checklist launched for new parents
“PANDA’s Mental Health Checklist for Expecting and New Parents is a unique and much-needed online and anonymous tool that allows expecting and new parents who are worried about their mental health to assess their emotional wellbeing,” PANDA CEO Terri Smith said.
“The answers it provides can also help these individuals and their loved ones discuss their mental health with their health professionals.”
Bathurst resident Chezzi Denyer, an ambassador for PANDA, knows first-hand the issues parents can face with the birth of a child.
Seven years ago, she welcomed her first child with husband Grant, but the experience didn’t go to plan.
“I ended up having an emergency caesarean, my birth didn’t go to plan at all,” Mrs Denyer said. “I was left with real trauma and I didn’t bond the way I thought that I would at the time.”
She admits that she knew something wasn’t right, but thought it would all “even out” with time.
As a first-time mum, the experience was particularly tough as she didn’t quite know what to expect.
“I had nothing to compare it to, I had no friends who were experiencing the same thing, because all my friends had great births,” Mrs Denyer said.
“Every time I spoke to them about how I loved my daughter with all my heart, it didn’t feel the same way I heard them describe their love for their children, and I felt robbed a bit.”
Even after seeking help from health specialists, her situation did not improve, something she linked to an inability to articulate to them what she was experiencing.
It took until her daughter was eight and a half months old, following what she called “a breakdown”, for a conclusive diagnosis to be made: postnatal anxiety.
Mrs Denyer underwent cognitive behavioral therapy, which saw her health improve from the first session.
She went on to have a second child, the experience being far better than her first.
“I wasn’t scared because of all the work I did previously … plus now I can recognise and articulate what things are,” she said.
Her own childbirth and treatment experiences have made Mrs Denyer passionate about helping others in similar situations.
“I’m really passionate about spreading the word about PANDA, because if I would have known back then that PANDA was around and that it was a national service with a free helpline, that you could call for anonymous advice, it could have changed my story,” she said.
“Sometimes I look back and feel really sad that it took me eight and half months to get that help and I don’t want anyone else to ever have to go through that.”
Women tend to look at things through “rose coloured glasses”, she said, but childbirth doesn’t always play out the way they are led to believe through television and film.
“In my experience, there’s a lot more people who haven’t achieved that fairytale, the reality is very different, but that doesn’t mean you are less of a person or life can’t be great for you – it can,” Mrs Denyer said.
“It just means that your story is different, your story is unique and I think that is really important to get that out there.”
Mrs Denyer said PANDA’s new checklist, which she trialed recently, asked important questions that could identify signs of a problem.
People can complete the checklist on PANDA’s website, which also offers other support services.