New parents’ anxiety levels stun experts

ANXIOUS TIME: New research shows mothers and fathers suffer after the birth of a child.
ANXIOUS TIME: New research shows mothers and fathers suffer after the birth of a child. Stockbroker

ABOUT a third of first-time mothers experience anxiety symptoms after the birth of their baby.

But they are not alone, with new research finding 17% of first-time fathers also feel anxious and find it difficult to adjust to parenthood during the six months after their baby's birth.

New Australian research, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, has found that anxiety and

adjustment disorders are more common than post-natal depression in new parents.

Dr Karen Wynter, from the Jean Hailes Research Unit at Monash University, said the levels of anxiety and adjustment issues were higher than expected.

"Most people think of post-natal depression as the main issue for new parents, but we found depression is not nearly as prevalent as anxiety," Dr Wynter said.

"I think the research shows that we also need to pay more attention to new fathers, because some of them will have problems adjusting to a new baby.

"But I don't think we are including men and asking them how they are managing as much as we should at the moment."

The study involved 172 couples from metropolitan and rural areas and from different socio-economic backgrounds.

Couples were interviewed separately four weeks after the birth of their baby and again when their baby was six months old.

Based on the interviews, researchers assessed whether the new parents were displaying symptoms of depression, anxiety and/or adjustment disorders.

"Adjustment to a new baby is bound to have implications for women and men," Dr Wynter said.

"A baby doesn't come with a manual to help new parents manage.

"One might expect some adjustment issues and anxiety but around a third of women and almost a fifth of men in the study reported that they were experiencing enough anxiety symptoms to interfere with their daily life.

"We were surprised to find that much anxiety."

Dr Wynter said the findings highlighted the need for couples and health professionals to be more aware that anxiety might arise after the arrival of a child, particularly a first baby.

"I would also like to see men included in at least one post-natal visit with their GP ... to check on how they are doing," she said.

Topics:  anxiety birth parenting

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