For some women, depression can overshadow what should be the happiest time of their lives. Ciara McDonnell examines the reasons why pregnancy and childbirth can bring on depression.
You’ve taken the test, shared your news and are ready to embark on what will be most amazing time of your life. Despite all the congratulations and elation surrounding a pregnant woman and her news, for some women, it’s hard to admit that rather than feeling happy, they feel the exact opposite. This feeling, and the guilt that so often accompanies it can make pregnancy an extremely lonely time for some women, but it’s hugely important to recognise that they are not alone. About one in ten women suffers from depression either in bouts or throughout their pregnancy. It’s easy to pass off sadness as a bad mood that is part and parcel of every pregnancy, but depression is more than feeling a bit off, and can quickly become a serious problem if not identified and dealt with. There is no definitive set of symptoms that point to depression – it varies from person to person. For some it can manifest as being low all the time, while others may lash out at those who love them and others still withdraw from the life they know.
If you are suffering from depression it’s likely that you
- Have trouble concentrating on everyday tasks
- Feel anxious most of the time
- Are short tempered
- Are having trouble sleeping
- Feel constant fatigue
- Feel weepy
- Are low spirited for most of the day
The most important thing for you to know is that you have done nothing to cause your depression. It used to be thought that pregnancy hormones provided a barrier to women contracting depression during pregnancy, but it is obviously not the case. So much so that post natal depression is now known as perinatal depression to encompass pregnancy as a whole. It’s thought there is a link between depression in pregnancy and postnatal depression. But this doesn’t mean that if you are depressed in pregnancy you will automatically be depressed after your baby is born. The most important thing for any woman who thinks that she may be suffering with perinatal depression is that she is not alone, and there is lots of help at hand from people who will understand her and treat her with compassion and care.
Read the signs
Identifying the factors that may contribute to perinatal depression is the first step to staying well throughout your pregnancy. It’s all in your history If you’ve struggled in the past with depression or extreme anxiety (or, to a lesser extent, if depression runs in your family), you’re more likely to become depressed now that you’re expecting. Even if you’ve never experienced a full-blown bout of depression or anxiety but have a tendency to get down or anxious during stressful or uncertain times, you may be more susceptible to depression now.
If your relationship is going through a rocky patch, seek counselling. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the baby’s arrival will make everything seem rosy.
If you had trouble getting pregnant, chances are you’ve been under a lot of stress. And if you’ve gone through multiple fertility procedures, you may still be dealing with the emotional side effects of months or even years of treatments and anxiety-laden waiting. On top of that, now that you’re pregnant, it’s not uncommon to be terrified of losing the baby you worked so hard to conceive. All of these make you more prone to depression.
Previous pregnancy loss
If you’ve miscarried or lost a baby in the past, it’s no wonder you’re worrying about the safety of this pregnancy. And if the loss was recent or if you’ve miscarried several times in the last year, you may not have had time to fully recover emotionally or physically. And, as with fertility treatments, if you’re dealing with health restrictions, you’re more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.
If you’ve experienced a complicated pregnancy, it can take an emotional toll on you, particularly if you’re enduring weeks of bedrest or tests. The strain of having to endure difficult procedures combined with fear about your baby’s well-being are bound to cause some strain. Talk to your caregiver about your emotional wellbeing and accept help taking the steps you need to enjoy the baby you’ve worked so hard to bring into the world.