The common assumption is that in order to be diagnosed with postnatal depression you need to have given birth to a baby, but you can actually experience depression during pregnancy as well – in fact one in 10 expectant mums do.
Here’s what you need to know about depression and anxiety during pregnancy and what you can do to help yourself feel better before baby arrives.
Perinatal Depression Can Strike Any Mum Or Dad
You’ve probably heard the term postnatal depression before. It generally strikes in the days, weeks or months after bub is born and can leave you feeling crippled from anger, guilt, sadness, exhaustion and anxiety.
But what about antenatal depression? This is the term used to describe depression during pregnancy and something that 9 per cent of women in Australia experience, according to PANDA.
Together, antenatal and postnatal depression fall under the term ‘perinatal depression’.
When It’s More Than Just Hormones
I was one of the 10 per cent of expecting mums who had antenatal depression. But, sadly, like many mums, I didn’t realise it.
I assumed that the anxious and angry feelings were normal (despite not having felt like this during my first pregnancy), that they were caused by the hormones flowing through my body, that I was just tired and uncomfortable, that I would ‘snap’ out of it once I had the baby.
This isn’t always the case. Yes, sometimes it could just be the normal pregnancy hormones, but often it is not.
How Do You Know You’ve Got Antenatal Depression?
It comes with similar signs to postnatal depression including anxiety and panic attacks, generalised and persistent worrying, obsessive or compulsive behaviours and abrupt mood swings.
Some women will feel exhausted and in physical pain; others will feel angry and on edge all the time. Some mums have trouble finding the pleasure in things and may contemplate suicide. Others have trouble focusing, socialising and remembering.
In almost all instances, antenatal depression leaves you feeling alone and ashamed, guilty for having these thoughts in the first place, for not being overwhelmed with happiness during such a joyous occasion, for not cherishing every moment of pregnancy.
Just try to remember, this is not your fault. And, more importantly, you don’t have to go through pregnancy feeling like this.
What Should You Do?
Make an appointment with your doctor. Talk to him or her. If you don’t feel like your doctor takes your concerns seriously or brushes them off as ‘hormones’, go to another doctor.
You may be referred to a mental health nurse who can properly assess you and decide what is best. In some instances you may need to take medication.
We cannot tell you whether you will need medication or not. It all comes down to your individual circumstances. In many instances, ensuring you feel better outweighs the slight risk that medication may pose to your baby.
You can also contact the PANDA hotline to talk to someone there. They can also point you in the right direction and help you decide what’s best for your situation.
Regardless of whether you choose to take meds or not, just talking to someone can help. And sometimes it’s enough.
Stopping The Stigma Surrounding Depression During Pregnancy
Being diagnosed with antenatal depression shouldn’t bring a sense of shame. What it should do is provide you with a sense of relief – this isn’t your fault.
This is a mental illness that you cannot control and this is something that, with the right support and help, can be ‘fixed’.
This week is PNDA Awareness Week and The Healthy Mummy have asked a team of journalists, experts and parents who have experienced perinatal depression, to shed light on this often stigmatised subject.
Please, take the time this week to look at your options if you are concerned with how you are feeling. The sooner you do, the better for both you and your baby.