Despite being a Psychologist, I had never really thought about perinatal anxiety until I became pregnant myself. In the lead up to childbirth, I began to experience significant anxiety and panic symptoms, but didn’t really know what to do about it, or where to go for support. As many mothers do, I turned to Google… but while there was a lot of information and help available for postnatal depression, there seemed to be almost no information about perinatal anxiety available online.
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Offline things weren’t much better, as my midwives didn’t really know what to suggest – not through any fault of their own… but due to the fact that the only perinatal mental health issue the healthcare system really focuses on is postnatal depression. I found this really surprising… as anxiety and worry is commonplace around childbirth. And during my pregnancy and maternity leave, I met more and more pregnant women and new mothers who said they were experiencing significant and distressing levels of anxiety.
To try to address this issue, we have developed this website to bring together evidence-based information and tools to help support anxiety during pregnancy and the postnatal period. The aim is to provide education about perinatal anxiety, and access to self-help strategies that you may find helpful in managing your symptoms.
Hi, I’m Donna and I’m a mother of two (an 11-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl). I’m also a psychologist and trained counsellor. I had postnatal anxiety with both of my children. The first time I did not know I had it! Despite having a career in mental health, I did not know anxiety around childbirth was a condition. After my first child I knew I wasn’t myself, but I could not identify with the limited information I had from the hospital on postnatal depression.
I couldn’t open up about how I was feeling for some time as I felt like I would be seen as a bad mum and thought it would just go away on its own. I eventually told my health visitor who was great, making time to visit me every week until I was better. She said I had postnatal depression…I’m not sure if postnatal anxiety was a “real thing” then!
I couldn’t find much information on the internet, but I started using an online forum for postnatal depression which was a life saver. Just talking with others who were going through the same thing really helped.
I’m a silver lining kind of person so when I recovered I wanted something positive to come out of such a horrid experience. So, I did a PhD on perinatal mental illness, the internet and stigma. I enjoyed researching this for nearly 8 years and it was such a privilege to see the impact on women’s lives. When I passed my final exam, it was such a relief – I went into labour 2 weeks early with my second child!
With my second child I was very prepared for it. I had made plans and had been very focused on looking after my mental health during pregnancy. At first, I was well after having my daughter, but then we had a family trauma, and this triggered my anxiety again. I know it helped being educated about it this time round and knowing I could speak openly about it without feeling ashamed or that anything bad would happen.
I know what you are going through…it is really tough, but with the right support and maybe treatment you will recover. I feel really honoured to have worked on this site. I wish I could go back in time and tell myself I was going to get better and go on to help others with PNA. Just try to imagine there is a future you out there – recovered and stronger than ever!
I know that with the right support you will get better and something good will come out of it. Your family will grow from this. Just hang on in there and ask for help.
If you are struggling with anxiety or worry, take some time to browse through this site. You can find out information about what the symptoms of perinatal anxiety look like, and use our self-help toolbox to discover strategies and techniques to help overcome your symptoms.
This website was developed by researchers at the Open University. The aim of the site is to bring evidence-based information and support to women experiencing perinatal anxiety, and those who support them.