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Could anxiety be misdiagnosed as postnatal depression?

Medical & health articles 1 May 2017
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Research Fellow at the Jean Hailes Research Unit, Dr Karen Wynter, joins Penny Johnstone on ABC Melbourne's Babytalk to discuss whether some cases of anxiety could be misdiagnosed as postnatal depression.

Dr Wynter discusses the Jean Hailes Research Unit findings which report anxiety as a significant problem for new parents, both mother and father.

For the first time Dr Wynter's research has followed the experiences of fathers as well as mothers in their first six months as parents.

The research reported that one third of women who have recently given birth experience anxiety symptoms and 17% of first time fathers feel anxious in the first six months.

"Feeling worried is normal when having a new baby, it is when the worry and anxiety interferes with daily life and the feelings become more frequent than others that it becomes a problem," said Dr Wynter.

Dr Wynter's interests lie in perinatal mental health. "I think there is a growing awareness worldwide as it is not only to do with preventing depression, it is to do with preventing anxiety because new parents have anxiety. We have started to look more broadly at mental health problems in general in the postpartum period and mental health and wellbeing in general in the antenatal and postnatal period."

Dr Wynter has a background in psychology and applied statistics. Her recent research projects have focused on psychosocial determinants of women's and men's postnatal mental health and her interests include perinatal anxiety in the context of the mother-father-baby relationships.

Listen to the ABC Babytalk segment.

For information and resources for new parents navigating the highs and lows of life with a baby visit parenting blog and mobile app What Were We Thinking! This program is an evidence-based intervention developed and run by the Jean Hailes Research Unit (a formal partnership between Monash University and Jean Hailes for Women's Health). The program teaches new mothers and fathers both practical skills for settling babies and ideas to help them adjust to changes in their relationship that can come with parenthood.

Visit the Jean Hailes Anxiety hub for more information on anxiety and worry when you are a new mum and access helpful tools and resources.