Pregnancy and early parenthood can be a time of huge physical and emotional changes. Perinatal mental health expert Professor Marie-Paule Austin shares out Australian mums’ top tips on keeping your mental health in check and gives her advice on what to do if you need help.
1. Eat a healthy diet
Making sure you eat a healthy diet, with a good variety of fresh fruits and vegetables will go long way to help you feel better physically, and it will do wonders for your emotional wellbeing too.
2. Make time to sleep
This may seem almost impossible as new parents, but it is really important. Not getting enough sleep can make it more difficult to think clearly, make decisions and parent your newborn. To make up on loss of night time sleep, do yourself a favour and prioritise daytime naps over housework.
3. Spend time with family and friends
Pregnancy and early parenting is an exciting time but it is challenging. Making time to spend with family and friends can be a great way to unwind and talk through your challenges to see how other parents cope. Also a good reminder that you are not alone.
There is growing research showing the benefits of exercise on your mental health . Not only is exercise important to keep you physically well but it also improves your emotional wellbeing by releasing endorphins, dopamine and serotonins (the feel good chemicals) and improving your quality of sleep.
It is also a great way of being social by joining in group activities or just walking with friends.
5. Taking time out from parenting
When you are pregnant or become a parent, your focus is on your baby’s development and wellbeing. But don’t forget about yourself and your partner. Take some time out from parenting to relax or enjoy some time without your baby, such as booking regular ’dates’ with your partner. This down time will help you re-energise you, and the relationship.
6. If you are struggling, help is available. Speak with a health professional
If you are feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed, know that you are not alone.
While many simple tips can be helpful, it is not uncommon to need a bit of help from professionals. In fact, up to one in seven new mums and one in ten new dads experience postnatal anxiety or depression.
If you are worried, speak with your GP who can help you identify what support and care would benefit you most.
Support may include in hospital care such as the St John of God Burwood Mother and Baby Unit or it could also be community-based care through services such as St John of God Community Services which provide low or no cost perinatal mental health support for mums and families.
About Marie-Paule Austin
Professor Marie-Paule Austin is the St John of God Health Care Chair Perinatal and Women’s Mental Health Research Unit, at the University of NSW, Sydney. She specialises in perinatal women’s mental health and mood and anxiety disorders at St John of God Burwood Hospital