4 reasons we need to talk about prenatal depression
A great deal is known about postnatal depression but little is known about that other wicked sister of hers – prenatal depression.
So why are we keeping mum on the subject? When it comes to mental health issues, she is the mother of all taboos.
Pregnancy is bumped up to be the happiest most joyous time in a woman’s life and when it isn’t; it can cause confusion and guilt. If not dealt with in time, this can ultimately lead to anxiety and depression. If you find pregnancy more a ‘bloomin’ hell' than a blooming joy – here’s four reasons why you don’t need to keep up the pregnancy mask any longer.
1. You are definitely not alone
It's estimated that about 10,000 women a year suffer from prenatal depression but because there is very little awareness on the subject, many women are reluctant to seek professional help, dismissing it as a bout of pre-baby blues. Prenatal depression is reported to be more common than postnatal depression with first-time mother’s being particularly prone.
2. It’s not all down to hormones
Gotta feel a little sorry for hormones, perpetually taking the rap for anything remotely female-related. In pregnancy, there are indeed all sorts of biological and chemical shenanigans going on in our bodies. Unfortunately, some of the warning signs for prenatal depression are similar to other symptoms of pregnancy – such as fatigue, loss of sleep, inability to concentrate – so it can be difficult to distinguish between the two. But the truth is, if one week you have to drag yourself away from googling every baby name under the sun and the next you're having to coax yourself out of bed to attend an antenatal appointment, it’s definitely more than just hormones. You need to seek professional help.
3. Every pregnancy and every woman is unique
Most women will experience pregnancy as a coming-of-age stage in life where there is a certain letting go of their childhood. But oftentimes pregnancy can trigger painful issues from a woman’s past that may or not have been resolved. Memories of childhood trauma (including sexual, physical and emotional abuse, parental abandonment) often resurface in pregnancy – causing fear, anxiety and low self-esteem. Negative thoughts such as ‘what makes me think I’d be a good enough mother anyway?’ or ‘I don’t deserve to be happy,’ etc. are not uncommon and understandable for a woman whose childhood was less than ideal. If you have a history of depression you may be at higher risk for prenatal depression. Just because your friends gushed about loving their baby from the moment of conception, doesn’t make you a bad mother or crazy if you don’t feel the same way.
4. Help is out there
Depending on the severity of the condition, therapy may be two-pronged and include medication and possibly counselling. Certain anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications have been proven safe for both mother and baby during pregnancy, but counselling is crucial in resolving past issues that are preventing you from enjoying your pregnancy. In many cases, women who experience prenatal depression will go on to develop postnatal depression. Therapy intervention in the prenatal stage may prevent or at least help manage issues that arise after the baby is born.
If you or someone you know need further information on prenatal depression, click here.
Grace C Vaughan lives in Meath with her online husband, offline children and smelly menagerie of hairy things.