“Post-natal depression (PND) is a common perinatal mental effecting many parents who have had a baby from birth up to around 3 years old,” says Annie Belasco, head of PANDAS. “Signs and symptoms include low mood, intrusive thoughts, persistent feelings of sadness and/ or anxiety, and also with some parents, difficulty bonding with their baby.”
As the lockdown continues to dictate the way we live, pregnant women across the UK are wondering how it affects everything from their birth plan to their maternity leave.
But one area that isn’t being addressed as much is that of mental health in new mothers – yet it’s an area that’s seeing a huge increase in demand to charities and helplines. In fact, within the first week of lockdown being announced, charity PANDAS (Pre- and Post-Natal Depression Advice and Support) saw a 75% increase in calls to their helpline.
In fact, PND affects more than 1 in every 10 women within a year of giving birth, according to the NHS, so it’s no wonder the current pandemic is taking its toll on very new parents.
“Whilst COVID-19 does not ’cause’ PND, it absolutely is impacting both pregnant parents and postnatal parents who have just given birth,” says Annie. “Anxiety can be induced by feeling ‘out of control’, and many parents are having to follow strict guidance on self-isolation, which is contradictory to the advice we would normally give to new parents. Before Coronavirus, we encouraged parents to spend time with a safe community, attend peer to peer support and take much-needed physical help that may be on offer from family and friends.”
Because lockdown restrictions likely mean that these usual coping mechanisms – relying on family and friends for child-care, as well as vital emotional and psychological support, particularly for first-time parents – aren’t possible, many women who are giving birth during the pandemic are struggling to cope. And PND doesn’t just affect mums – research has actually found that up to 1 in 10 new fathers become depressed after having a baby
“There’s no ‘me time’, they’re balancing everything at home and, for some, managing their own perinatal mental health whilst raising a child,” Annie explains. “Parents are feeling isolated and lonely; stretched physically and mentally.” And that’s before factoring in what Annie terms ‘a generalised wave of anxiety amongst all parents at the moment’ due to increased pressure on work, money and relationships which many new parents typically feel under ‘normal’ circumstances, let alone during a pandemic.
So, what can new parents do to protect their mental health right now? This is the advice currently offered by PANDAS:
- Encourage boundaries online. We are heavily reliant on social media as a motivator, but it is crucial for parents who may be struggling with their perinatal mental health to set boundaries to avoid possible triggers that could cause set backs. Make sure you are following positive, inspirational and comparison-free social media.
- Practice self-care. We are encouraging parents to remember the person behind the parent (you) in all of this. Take time to acknowledge yourself and do at least one thing – no matter how big or small – per day to focus on yourself and remove any guilt.
- Acknowledge thoughts and feelings, accept them and ask for support with one person who you feel able to. Allow yourself time and give yourself the energy to know that you can’t achieve every single thing you would like to in an ideal world. Don’t be hard on yourself and know that every parent is in this together.
- Join PANDAS social media channels via (where we have regular lives with special guests and motivational posts) and for uplifting, accurate and supportive information and content, that will motivate you each day to keep going!
Where to turn for help
A range of help and support is available if you are struggling. PANDAS offer a safe, supportive community with trained and safeguarded team members who are here to offer hope and empathy. Call their free helpline on 0808 1961 776 (Monday – Sunday, 11am – 10pm), or email their support service on email@example.com for a response within 72 hours.
You can also visit thefor a safe space to talk and share your thoughts and experiences, or get in touch with the on 0207 386 0868 or by using the live chat box on their (both manned Monday – Friday, 10am – 2pm).
If you think you might have PND, speak to a GP or your health visitor as soon as possible. If self-help, lifestyle choices or charity support aren’t helping, you may be prescribed antidepressants or referred for psychological therapy, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
If you need help urgently, call 111 or 999 in an emergency.
Most importantly, do not struggle in silence hoping this will go away. As it says on the, it’s not your fault you’re depressed and it does not mean you’re a bad parent, or that your baby will be taken away from you (babies are only taken into care in very exceptional circumstances). Post-natal depression can happen to anyone. You are not alone.
PANDAS’s fourth annual Pre- and Post-Natal Depression Awareness Week (#PNDAW20) will be 31st August – 6th September 2020.