Pregnant and depressed sounds weird to me. It just doesn’t seem “right.”
Previously, I assumed pregnancy was always the happiest time in a woman’s life. It had always been in mine. I truly had no idea depression in pregnancy was a real thing until I began to experience it myself. I wrongly thought anyone who was depressed during pregnancy was either already depressed before falling pregnant or the mom really didn’t want the baby. That’s so harsh and I realize it now, but I didn’t understand that a pregnancy could in fact cause depression.
After writing this post yesterday, I realized how little I knew about what I was experiencing and how much I needed to know more. So I started searching, Googling, looking for others who were or had experienced what I am. To my surprise, I discovered it’s not that uncommon.
Shockingly (at least to me), it is more common than postpartum depression. Anywhere from 5-25% of women will experience prenatal depression. How had I not heard of this before? With all of my researching, reading, and discussing with fellow mamas, this is a topic I am not sure I have ever been faced with until now. How? More importantly, why???
I found this in one study I read, “We were surprised by the paucity of such evidence in this area. If one assumes that perinatal depression is a significant mental health and public health problem, then larger scale studies are needed that involve each of these domains. The small number and small size of relevant studies are not adequate to guide national policy.”
Turns out, similar to PPD, many mamas are simply too embarrassed or ashamed to discuss being depressed during pregnancy. Pregnancy is supposed to be a happy time, right? Women going through it often feel alone and afraid and do not want to acknowledge what they are experiencing. Some believe it is a regular part of pregnancy since the symptoms of pregnancy and prenatal depression can be very similar. Others do mention it, but their doctors blow it off as being “normal pregnancy symptoms.”
I am pretty sure I am experiencing prenatal depression and I don’t really understand why. I have had unexpected pregnancies before. Only one of my children was “planned.” I don’t recall ever feeling this low. Yes, I had my moments in each pregnancy and the planned one was by far the happiest, but I don’t remember feeling so hopeless and lost.
Here is a list of possible reasons for prenatal depression to occur:
• A woman who has a history of depression
• Substance abuse
• A family history of mental illness
• Little support from family and friends
• Sudden change in life ( a move, separation from spouse, etc.)
• Anxiety about the fetus
• Problems with a previous pregnancy or birth
• Giving birth at a young age
• Marital or financial problems
It is said that prenatal depression is more likely to occur during the first and third trimester as that is when hormones fluctuate the most. However, that is not the case for all women. I have been experiencing it since the first trimester, but it didn’t magically go away when I reached the second trimester like I thought (really, really hoped) it would. It almost seems like it has gotten worse. For some it continues throughout their entire pregnancy. This can be very scary as depression that occurs during pregnancy is associated with a threefold increase in the risk of postpartum depression.
For me, the symptoms of depression have been problems sleeping, disinterest in my normal activities, and an overall inability to just be happy…about anything. I also don’t feel attached to this baby at all, which is killing me and no doubt making things worse.
General symptoms of prenatal depression are:
• Feeling very sad, anxious or cranky
• Frequent crying
• Not feeling up to doing daily tasks
• Not feeling hungry, or eating when not hungry
• Not wanting to take care of yourself (dress, shower, fix hair)
• Trouble sleeping when tired, or sleeping too much
• Things don’t seem fun or interesting anymore
• Trouble concentrating
• Feeling hopeless
• Trouble making decisions
• Worrying too much about the baby or not caring about the baby
If you are experiencing this or you know someone who is, you probably don’t care about causes or symptoms. You probably just want to know how to make it stop, how to help someone feel better, or how to go back to feeling like yourself.
Unfortunately, there is no definative answer. Therapy can be a great help, being able to express yourself without judgement and getting positive feedback can have a large hand in helping you feel better. Adding supplements, changing your diet, changing prenatals, and/or starting an exercise regimen can help too. Sometimes doing everything “right” cannot help entirely and medication is prescribed. Many women are uncomfortable with this and understandably so, so be sure to address any concerns you may have with your healthcare provider.
Whatever treatment you decide is best for you, it is most important that you seek help. If your provider is unresponsive or tells you it is normal, do not let them make you feel you are wrong about your own feelings. You know yourself better than any body else and no matter how difficult it is to confront your doctor or midwife, be sure you are heard. If you still feel you are being ignored, seek a second opinion. Studies show stress and anxiety in pregnancy can significantly effect your baby and with the risks associated with prenatal depression and postpartum, it is best not to think you can deal with it on your own. Remember, you are not alone. Reach out, there is always someone waiting to help.
Here are some informative and useful links:
Please feel free to e-mail me if you would like someone to talk to. I am happy to help however I can, although I cannot promise I can do more right now than understand. ChooseYourBirth@yahoo.com