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Mental stress around childbirth

Babies and children need a loving and stable environment so that they can develop in the best possible way. Most parents know this. At the same time, this can generate a lot of pressure. Every family is different and faces its own challenges – there is no such thing as a 'perfect family'. The time around childbirth in particular is often particularly mentally stressful. 

Below you will get an overview of mental stress and what you can do about it:


When you have depression, you are continuously sad and unhappy. Depression can occur at any stage of life. Depression during pregnancy is called antenatal depression. Postpartum depression is when it occurs in the first year after birth. The symptoms during pregnancy and early parenthood are the same as at any other point in life. After giving birth, mothers have to look after their baby. Depression makes this task more difficult. In addition, postpartum depression is often more difficult to recognise. After all, parents are often tired from caring for their child and suffer from sleep deprivation. Some symptoms are also similar to the very common baby blues.

Depression is treatable; mental health can be restored with professional support.

What are the symptoms of depression?

Symptoms may include:

  • a persistent bad mood, hopelessness
  • feelings of emptiness and sadness
  • feelings of worthlessness, irritability and insomnia
  • changes in appetite
  • feeling that you are harming the baby or that you are not a good parent
  • unexplained fear for the baby
  • recurring negative thoughts or
  • a desire to 'escape' or leave everything behind

All of this may be accompanied by strong feelings of guilt or shame. However, it is not a sign of weakness if you ask for help. If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, be sure to consult a doctor or psychotherapist.

Does postpartum depression also occur in men?

This new role can also be very challenging for the father or other parent and can trigger negative feelings. The symptoms often differ depending on gender: while women tend to suffer from exhaustion, men tend to be irritable, aggressive and act rashly. In contrast, very little research has been carried out into postpartum depression in men.

However, we know that it can be prevented if the father actively shapes his relationship with the child and builds up a secure bond. This can protect both father and mother from postpartum depression.

You can find more information on postpartum depression on the Austrian Health Portal and the Geburtsinfo Wien (Birth Info Vienna) website.


Anxiety is a normal response to stress that is usually temporary. However, anxiety disorders differ from normal fears and everyday worries. They are stronger, last longer and can make everyday life more difficult. When you are pregnant or have a newborn baby, it is normal to worry about the baby. This is why it can be more difficult to recognise an anxiety disorder. However, if you have particularly severe anxiety that is having a negative impact on your everyday life, contact a specialist who can help you.

Symptoms may include:

  • Panic attacks: outbursts of extreme anxiety and panic that are overwhelming and difficult to control
  • Fears and worries that keep cropping up and are difficult to stop or control
  • Irritability, restlessness, tension, tightness in the chest, a rapid heartbeat or insomnia

How can you prevent mental illness?

Mental illness is often unavoidable and has numerous causes. Sometimes you can reduce the likelihood of developing a mental illness or prevent stress.

Here's what you can do yourself:

  • Talk openly about your feelings.
  • Contact trusted persons such as a friend, your partner, a midwife or other healthcare professionals.
  • Split the care of your child between the two of you – use the Papamonat (father's month) and parental leave from both parents.
  • Build up a good social network.
  • Try to maintain a healthy relationship by consciously taking time out as a couple.

Mental illness is widespread. It can affect anyone, regardless of their circumstances. Seeking help is a courageous and crucial step towards recovery. It is a sign of strength and self-care.

What support is available for mental stress?