Dealing With Antenatal Depression

antenatal depression

Are you suffering from the baby bump blues. Your spirits should be soaring, but you’re feeling low. We guide you through antenatal depression, a much-ignored but common ailment.

Antenatal depression is less talked about than postnatal depression, yet a recent survey found that about ten per cent of women experience this during pregnancy, and around 80 per cent of them, not surprisingly, go on to develop postnatal depression. There is so much help out there, and I like to think that midwives are much better at assessing depression during pregnancy than ever before – but why wait for her to ask you questions? If you feel you need help, then let your midwife know so she can get the wheels in motion and find the right support that can help you start to feel better.

Why might I get it?
This list isn’t exhaustive but many of the reasons can be divided into physical, social and emotional. Lots of women have days when they can feel low or anxious, but if these feelings continue it’s important to get help as soon as possible. It can be difficult for some women to admit how they feel, as they feel guilty that they should be ‘blooming’ and excited about their pregnancy, when most of the time they feel generally unhappy.

Physical Reasons
Many women experience extreme sickness and tiredness in pregnancy, which can be physically demanding, particularly if they already have other children or a pressured job.

The demands on the body are greater during pregnancy, with the heart working harder pumping more blood around the body, causing breathlessness. For some, weight gain can prompt self-esteem and body image issues. Pregnancy hormones can cause mood swings too, which although many women take in their stride, many struggle to adapt to. This combined with lack of sleep and an often overactive mind can lead to anxiety and depression.

Emotional reasons

Pregnancy is a huge life change and many women struggle to adjust. Some worry they won’t love their new baby as much as their other child, or find relationships change with their partner, friends and family. Women who’ve had a previous miscarriage or stillbirth can have dreadful periods of anxiety, fearing that something will go wrong and are not able to enjoy their pregnancy. Pregnancy itself can represent a ‘loss’ for some women, and if they have lost a loved one in the past, they may go through another period of grief as they prepare for the birth of their baby, feeling vulnerable or lonely.

Social reasons

For some pregnancy can represent a loss of identity or extra demands financially due to increased expenses and a loss of income. Extra pressure in relationships, with their partner and families, can cause problems, while not having access to support from extended family after the birth can cause isolation and anxiety as to how you will cope. Concerns over lack of space in the home are common and many prepare for a house move during pregnancy, which is a potentially stressful major life event.

Who can I tell?
Depression doesn’t just affect how you feel, it also affects how you behave and can have physical symptoms too. There is lots of help available, but the important thing is that you let your midwife, health visitor or GP know how you are feeling.
During your pregnancy, your midwife will ask you about how you have been feeling recently, whether or not you’ve been feeling down and if you get pleasure from doing things. Depending upon your answers, she’ll then ask if you feel you need help with this. If you are feeling down and this is affecting your life on a day-to-day basis, then support is available from other professionals and services to help you manage your feelings.

The treatments available can vary, depending on the severity of your depression and for how long it has been going on. Your doctor will ask whether or not you have felt like this before and you will assess together what is the right sort of treatment than can help you. This may be anything from counselling to medication. If you do need the latter, your doctor will make sure this is safe for you and your baby.

Warning signs
It’s normal during pregnancy to experience a real swing of emotions or to feel tearful at sad news stories. However, if you find that most of the time you are feeling down, it may well be that you are suffering from depression, which can then affect your eating and sleeping habits too.

Signs can include:
✤ Anxiety
✤ Mood swings/restlessness
✤ Negative thoughts a lot of the time
✤ Trouble sleeping
✤ Constant tiredness
✤ Change in eating habits (loss of appetite or gaining weight)
✤ Feeling constantly tearful
✤Can’t find fun or joy in things
✤ Feeling ‘low’ most of the time
✤ Loss of self-confidence
✤ Feeling hopeless

What to do
There are things you can do to help with your mood, but the problem can be finding the motivation to do it.

1 Try not to get over-tired. Make time for yourself, even if this just means an uninterrupted soak in the bath.

2 Do make friends with other women who are pregnant or have just had a baby. Depression can be lonely, so try to build up a support network.

3 Talk about how you are feeling to your midwife, health visitor or GP.

4 Let family or friends know how you are feeling. People usually want to help and it might be if they are aware, they can do little things that can make a difference.

5 Go to antenatal classes. You’ll soon discover that other women have similar emotions and that you’re not alone.

6 Exercise can help produce endorphins (the ‘feelgood’ hormone) which help you to feel better. A gentle walk in the fresh air can help blow the cobwebs away, and also help you to sleep more easily.

7 Meditation and other relaxation techniques can help you to take time out and reduce stress and anxiety. And remember – don’t suddenly stop any medication for depression, but see your GP who will be able to discuss the safest care for you and your baby.

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