Pregnancy is often and commonly portrayed as a blissful experience filled with happiness and excitement. However, this is not always the case.For some mums it is a sad, confusing and anxiety provoking experience. Prenatal Depression is more common than you can imagine.
Experts erroneously believed that the upsurge of hormones during pregnancy was protective against depression. This has proven to be false. It is indeed possible for one to be depressed before pregnancy, during pregnancy and after. In some cases, women who experience clinical or mild prenatal depression prior to their pregnancy, experience worsening symptoms to a life-threatening degree.
Who is most susceptible to depression?
Lucy Muchiri, midwife and doula, reported that married women are more affected than single women due to abortion restrictions and taboos. As Lucy quoted the other group that's highly susceptible to antenatal depression is teenage mums. This is due to society's stigma around early pregnancy and family judgement. She also added that men whose partner gets pregnant, unplanned, are likely to get depression; although theirs cannot be termed prenatal depression.
How does depression in pregnancy affect you and your baby?
Depression during pregnancy decreases a mum's ability to take care of herself, affects her sleeping and eating patterns, and may increase her risk for substance abuse. Most importantly, it interferes with her chance to bond with the expected baby. Feelings of guilt that plague depressed pregnant women also affect their outlook and emotional and physical health. These directly impact the developing baby.
How do you know if you are depressed during pregnancy?
Due to the naturally occurring mood changes caused by the hormonal imbalance of pregnancy, many cases of antenatal depression go undiagnosed as it is mistaken for pregnancy blues. It is important to differentiate between moodiness and depression. You could be suffering from AND (antenatal depression) if you are experiencing these symptoms continuously for two weeks or longer.
Restless and moody
A sad feeling of hopelessness and crying a lot
Feeling overwhelmed, lacking motivation and having no energy
Increased or decreased sleep or waking up often
Dietary changes. Eating more or less.
Withdrawal from people and/or previous interests
Lack of interest
Bodily aches experienced constantly e.g. stomach-ache or head ache
Feeling guilty or worthless
Trouble concentrating, focusing and remembering
Get help now. Speak up!
Speak to your Doctor or Gynaecologist about your symptoms. Pour out your heart to your spouse or a close friend. Don't ignore your situation - seek help from a professional therapist. They can help you manage your feelings and emotions. Try to exercise moderately throughout the pregnancy. In most cases, these feelings are temporary and subside when your hormones stabilize. Take care of your health by eating well. Avoid alcohol.
Lucy Muchiri also noted that recovery is often based on the strength of the pregnant woman's support system. She also added that it is important that antenatal depression be handled within pregnancy to as a preventive measure for post-partum depression.
What are risks of untreated antenatal depression?
Untreated prenatal depression can lead to preterm labour, a premature birth, a difficult birth or pregnancy termination. It also increases the need for caesarean surgery and is a predisposing factor for preclampsia, postnatal depression, substance use/abuse and even suicide. For the child, antenatal depression increases risks of low birth weight. Babies who are born to depressed mothers have also been shown to be less active, show less attention, are more irritable and get more easily agitated than babies born to none depressed mothers.