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A Bundaberg mum is helping raise awareness about Perinatal Anxiety and Depression, which she battled after giving birth to her son.
Kayla Wittleton was admitted to a mental health unit a couple of weeks after giving birth, with experts saying this condition touches every area of wellbeing, including motivation, decision making and how people connect with others.
For the 100,000 Australian families who are affected by perinatal anxiety and depression each year, the road to parenthood can be overwhelming.
PANDA - Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Australia is releasing new data from their online tool for expecting and new parents and their loved ones who are worried about their mental health.
Over 25,000 individuals have completed the online checklist and the findings reveal that perinatal anxiety and depression, if left untreated, can have devastating consequences for the whole family unit.
The data reveals that half (53%) of expecting dads completing the Checklist feel that they will be a terrible parent and struggle with confidence about becoming a parent, while two-thirds (65%) feel more withdrawn from their partner.
Relationship troubles are alarmingly common, with three in four (76%) expecting parents experiencing more conflict, and 85% of new mums and 65% of new dads struggling with intimacy.
Further data from PANDA’s National Perinatal Anxiety & Depression Helpline reveals that three quarters (73%) of callers found it difficult to adjust to becoming a parent, with just one in three (34%) opening up to their partner about their emotional wellbeing.
With one in five (22%) callers suffering for at least six months before seeking help, PANDA aims to raise community awareness and break down the stigma that gets in the way of people seeking help.
This PANDA Week (10 – 16 November) Australians are encouraged to ‘get real’ about perinatal anxiety and depression.
Kayla is a Community Champion for PANDA and explained what Perinatal Anxiety was like for her. She was admitted to a mental health unit around two weeks after the birth of her son. She remained there until he was one month old.
Kayla said she didn't start to feel like herself again until her son was two or three months old.
She said "when you're a new mum you're supposed to be tired and exhausted and I didn't feel any of that".
"I just felt tired all the time and running with no sleep but I felt so good and then it sort of started to go downhill from there where the 'no sleep' that turned into paranoia and hallucinations but definitely no sleep was the first big one.
Ms Wittleton said she was worried that everyone knew how she was feeling inside, adding that she did try to keep it on the downlow. She also admitted that her relationship with her partner suffered during that time.
In the end she said her relationships have since improved.
Kayla said her brush with Perinatal Anxiety has given her a better understanding of mental health, especially after having a baby, "But getting back into life after experiencing that, it was very difficult".
"I felt like once those symptoms went away and all the paranoia and the hallucinations, it sort of felt like I was becoming a mum again even though he was four weeks old, it felt like I was starting all over again, but just with a clearer mind obviously not having that illness anymore.
She added that "It's not affecting life now but it was definitely hard to get back to the old me at the beginning".
Her advice for other new mums was to not keep their feelings secret. She said "Talk, talk as much as you can because you'll get help quicker, sometimes I feel like if I had just told someone exactly what was going on I would have got help quicker and possibly may not have had to go into the mental health unit if I'd just spoken up sooner".
She said "Speak up and know that you're not alone, at the time I thought I'm the only person that this has ever happened to, I've never even heard of this before but now that I've been through it and really researched it, so many women go through it".
By Michelle Brewer