There is a mood disorder that affects pregnant women’s mental health. It’s called prenatal depression and it means depression during pregnancy.
Let’s find out more about prenatal depression during pregnancy, the risk factors, what causes it and what health professionals should do to minimize signs and symptoms of prenatal or antenatal depression.
What is perinatal depression?
Perinatal depression is a depressive disorder that develops sometime between pregnancy and the baby’s first year of life.
If we look at the history of depression, when it comes to perinatal depression and childbirth we’re most used to hearing about postpartum depression. We’ve heard the term ‘postpartum depression’ so many times it might even confuse us into thinking that perinatal depression is all about postpartum depression.
For the vast majority of women who experience perinatal depression, research suggests that it happens after the baby’s arrival; some women, however, experience depression during pregnancy.
What is prenatal depression?
Prenatal depression is a medical condition that affects a woman’s mental health during pregnancy. Most women face pregnancy from a happy place but there’s a small proportion of women who develop symptoms of depression during pregnancy and suffer prenatal depression.
Let’s dive deeper into prenatal depression (also called antenatal depression) or major depression during pregnancy.
What causes prenatal depression?
Women who suffer a high level of uncertainty for the future of their babies are more likely to experience depression during pregnancy.
Here are some of the risk factors for developing prenatal depression.
- Demographics. Although more research is necessary in the field of prenatal depression, there’s an undeniable link between antenatal depression and a low socioeconomic class. Sadly, prenatal depression is more common in middle-income countries
- Unwanted pregnancy. Of course, not wanting to be pregnant can lead to perinatal depression if there is no support available or the situation of the pregnant woman is complicated. She might be suffering from violence and abuse and she feels it’s extremely unsafe to bring a child into the world
- Previous depression. Your mental health might suffer once again, especially if you’ve experienced depression before. Untreated depression doesn’t just go away if it’s ignored; it will wait for the right circumstances to manifest itself again. If you haven’t suffered from depression but there’s a family history of it, you’re at a higher risk of developing prenatal depression yourself.Emotional support is absolutely necessary to help you through antenatal depression. Talk to your health care provider, who will refer you to a mental health professional to treat depression and prepare you for your baby’s arrival.
Is pregnancy hard on your mental health?
Pregnant women aren’t at a higher risk of developing mental health problems. If the relevant environmental factors merge, however, pregnancy might be the time when a weak and damaged mental health crumbles and mental illness manifests. Unfortunately, this is completely normal and more common than we imagine.
For many generations women have been taught to put others first, to serve others and to make others happy. We’ve been told that our own happiness can be postponed in favor of others’ happiness. Most of the time women grow up unaware of these conditioning factors. For a long time they try to minimize symptoms; they ignore them or hide them deep down. When they become pregnant, though, they suddenly become responsible for someone else’s life and ability to thrive. They have to provide for a new baby who is highly dependent on them. Their mental health is quite poor at this stage and the thought of taking care of somebody else when they just have enough to keep up the facade is quite overwhelming. Symptoms of depression may manifest themselves fast in a pregnant woman with fragile mental health.
Signs of prenatal depression
Prenatal depression can affect women at any time during their pregnancy.
Some of the signs are:
#1. Lack of energy
Pregnant women who suffer from antenatal depression might feel they cannot cope with day-to-day life. They might frequently feel sick or experience common pregnancy symptoms very strongly. This lack of energy is often associated with disturbed sleep.
#2. Excessive worry about birth and motherhood
Of course, most pregnant women worry about giving birth and becoming a mother. It’s actually necessary to go through all the different stages. Childbirth is a rite of passage, a transforming journey that starts much earlier than the day the baby is born.
Becoming a mother is possibly the greatest role you’ll have and worrying about being responsible for a tiny, fragile human being seems quite normal. However, there is a healthy amount of worry. Perhaps you’re asking what this means; how much is a healthy amount? Turn the question around and ask yourself. Is this amount of worry worrisome? Is a woman displaying excessive negative thoughts about birth? Is she convinced that she will fail as a mother? These are the kinds of behaviors close family members might be able to identify easily.
#3. Little bonding with the baby bump
Women who suffer from prenatal depression might have little interaction or negative interaction with the developing baby. They might hide their anxiety by calling the baby names, or suggest the baby is responsible for their misfortune. If, most of the time, you hear a woman saying things about her baby such as, ‘This monster is kicking my bladder once again’, ‘Oh no, one more stretch mark this little bugger is giving me’ or ‘I really hope you’re a good baby because, so far, you’ve been nothing but trouble’, then these disconnections with the baby are clear red flags about a very unhealthy emotional detachment.
#4. Mood changes
Frequent mood changes, with episodes of anger and irritability, are common symptoms of depression. There might also be extreme sadness at times. During pregnancy, many women experience changes in mood that are usually linked to hormonal levels.
These changes that might indicate the pregnant woman is suffering from depression, however, are quite extreme and mirror the lack of joy she’s experiencing.
Although anxiety and depression are two different mental health conditions, they tend to go hand in hand.
When you experience anxiety, sometimes small tasks seem like huge mountains to climb. Anxiety stops you from performing simple tasks.
If you’re experiencing anxiety, talk to your health care provider, who might be able to point you in the right direction for appropriate treatment options that will reduce your anxiety. These might range from relaxation techniques to talk therapy and support groups.
Does prenatal depression affect baby?
A different mental status is achieved due to different hormones running through our veins. During pregnancy, the hormones that run through the mother’s veins are similar to those that run through the umbilical cord towards the baby. Babies, therefore can feel what mothers feel.
A baby who develops in an environment where there are stress hormones is a baby in survival mode. The baby will grow and develop but nowhere near as well as a baby who is developing in a thriving environment.
If you’re having difficulties, you don’t have to deal with them alone. It isn’t your fault. You’re not responsible for getting through this without help. Mother-child health is at stake. Moms’ mental health matters and health care providers are there to help you navigate whatever it is you’re going through – with various options, from interpersonal therapy to joining a support group with others going through similar experiences.
How does crying affect baby?
Suppressed emotions are not good for anyone’s health. Crying will not affect your baby but whatever is making you cry might.
We cannot stop ourselves from feeling sad or having a good cry. Acknowledging the baby, letting the little one know that she isn’t the cause of your unhappiness, and explaining to her what you’re going through will help you and your baby navigate difficult circumstances.
Contact your healthcare provider if you suspect your mental health is suffering at any stage during pregnancy and/or during the postpartum period.
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