You’ve seen the positive pregnancy test and felt excited. You have eagerly watched your tiny bubba kick and squirm on the antenatal scan. You may even have started to scout the stores for cute outfits as you prepare for your new arrival. Just as normal, however, is to have a feeling of anxiety.
Expecting a baby brings on a wide range of emotions, from joy and excitement to stress and trepidation. Although many of us are aware of post-natal depression, there are also mums-in-waiting who experience some level of sadness and anxiety in the months leading up to delivery. With estimates that one in eight mums can experience some symptoms of depression during pregnancy, it’s an important issue to be aware of.
According to many of those working in antenatal care, a full diagnostic depression is typically only seen in about 10 to 15 percent of pregnant women. A minority, yet still a figure high enough to warrant some thorough investigation.
Hormones are typically blamed for many of the mood swings and other emotional nuances that present themselves during pregnancy. Other stresses can also bring about depressive symptoms, some of which come about simply because of the changes that pregnancy potentially brings. Moving to a new house to increase space or to have a more baby-friendly environment, for example, is a common issue. A new baby might mean career changes for one or both parents or a switch in hobbies and down time. And all of these changes can add stress to an already stressful time.
A genuine problem with depression in pregnancy is that it can have a negative impact on good prenatal care, particularly in the areas of nutrition, sleep habits, exercise and following important care instructions from the doctor or midwife.
“As health care professionals we watch for possible symptoms such as good personal hygiene, eating well, keeping a normal daily routine and interests, and any excessive withdrawal or weight loss,” says Cecile De Scally, midwife with Malaak, Mama and Baby Care.
Because many of the signs of depression mimic pregnancy symptoms, it can be hard to determine what is normal fatigue in pregnancy and what is depression, and this leads to an under-reporting of the problem. It might also be ignored simply because this is supposed to be a happy time in life. The key to preventing problems that stem from depression in pregnancy, which may also increase the likelihood of postpartum depression, is getting the support and help you need as soon as you realise that you are experiencing a problem.
By developing a support network during your pregnancy, you can create a safe place to talk out any worrying feelings you might be having. It is important to recognise that you are not alone, and that help is available. While care-givers and loved ones can assist the new mother in adjusting and help with ensuring basic needs are met and stress reduced, the woman herself needs to be aware and accept the help offered.
“Mums should talk to someone when fatigue continues beyond the first trimester: when there is weight loss, if she feels sad, when she just does not feel as if she is pregnant or wants to be pregnant,” says De Scally. “You are not alone, there is no longer a social stigma attached to mental health. Plus, every pregnant woman deserves support, emotionally and physically.”
Talk to your doctor or midwife if you think you need help. Alternatively reach out to an organisation offering support such as Out of the Blues.
Sun-Thu, 9am-6pm. Malaak Mama and Baby Care, Platinum Tower, Cluster I, JLT, www.malaak.me (04 558 7307). Out of the Blues, www.outoftheblues.support (050 911 0453).