Pregnant and depressed

Pregnancy is traditionally thought of as a time of joy and excitement. A time when the parents to be look forward to the coming baby. So what happens if you don’t feel this joy? If all you feel is depressed, anxious, withdrawn or fearful?

Studies have shown that 10% of expectant mums could be suffering with depression. Many women suffer in silence. Some feel guilt and shame about their feelings. Others worry about what people will think if they speak up.

Although overwhelming at times, depressive feelings in pregnancy can be part of a normal response to the very big changes that occur both in your body, your relationship and your life style. Changes take time to adapt to and pregnancy brings a lot of changes in a very short space of time.

Often these feelings relate not only to the physical and emotional impact of pregnancy but also to the expectations we place on ourselves as mothers. Expectations are often based on our own experiences of being a child (and our relationships and experiences of parents, siblings and other important people in our lives).

If we have had a difficult childhood experiences it can cause anxiety when thinking about becoming a mother. In this case we may be putting high expectations on ourselves to be a different kind of parent. Alternatively, if our childhood experiences were good we could be putting high expectations on ourselves to be a replica of our own parents. Placing all these expectations onto yourself adds extra pressure at a time when you are still coming to terms with being a parent to start with.

Ante natal depression can occur at anytime during pregnancy and there are some factors which may make some expectant mums more susceptible, these include:

  • A previous history of depression or post natal depression.
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Mums who have had a difficult or traumatic labour.
  • Mothers who have suffered a previous miscarriage or loss of a baby.
  • Those who have had experiences of physical or emotional abuse, particularly in childhood.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Tearfulness.
  • Feelings of exhaustion.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Inability to sleep.
  • Difficulty handling social situations.
  • Anxiety or panic attacks.
  • Feeling overwhelmed or withdrawn.

If you feel depressed what can you do?

  • Take action now. Research has shown that undiagnosed ante natal depression can lead to post natal depression.
  • Discuss your feelings with your partner, family or friends, they can often be a strong source of support.
  • Talk to your midwife or GP. Be honest about how you feel.
  • Counselling can also offer support and help you to find a different way to approach things. Dealing with the root cause of depression can help to stop it reoccurring.

Note: Both ante natal and post natal depression are now more often referred to as perinatal depression by health professionals.