Pregnancy is usually a time of great joy, mixed with feelings of uncertainty and perhaps fear at the great unknowns of birth and motherhood ahead. Some women face an additional challenge during pregnancy as they struggle with antenatal depression. While postnatal depression is well known and screened for in post birth check ups, antenatal depression remains unheard of and often goes undiagnosed. In Birth Journeys Natasha shared her challenging journey to a positive birth including her diagnosis with antenatal depression. Read some sections from Natasha’s powerful story “Beacon of Light”
Laura Chapman shares a special guest post on depression in pregnancy
Removing Fear of Childbirth May Reduce Depression
When you are fearful of childbirth, it affects your experience of delivery. However, recent research also shows that this fear increases your risk of postnatal depression. The study from Finland, which involved more than 500,000 women and published in the journal BMJ Open, found that women who had not previously experienced depressed mood were most likely to suffer from depression in the weeks after delivery if they feared childbirth. However, the anxiety surrounding delivery may contribute to the low mood experienced by some of us during pregnancy as well.
Understanding antenatal depression
While you probably know about postnatal depression, you may not realise that similar feelings can occur during pregnancy; you may think that any change to the way you feel is simply down to the pregnancy hormones and the other changes occurring to your body. However, a report published by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare in 2012 showed that 3.7% of mothers experienced depressive symptoms for the first time while pregnant and other studies have shown that as many as a fifth of us may be affected by mood disorders during pregnancy. So you are far from alone if you suffer from low mood before the birth of your baby. A lot of factors contribute to antenatal depression, but worrying about childbirth and how you will manage afterwards are likely to make matters worse. Hearing about positive birth experiences will help you to feel more at ease, but if you think you might be depressed, it’s best to see your doctor.
By asking you a range of questions about your feelings, your doctor can quickly assess whether you have depression and with this diagnosis they can discuss the treatments available. If you are worried about taking antidepressants, some are known to be safe during pregnancy, but a number of effective drug-free treatments are available if you have mild depression. For instance, exercise is known to do wonders for your mood and talking therapies are beneficial for many women too. If you have an interest in complementary therapies, you might like to try acupuncture, which studies show is both suitable and effective for treating depressive symptoms during pregnancy. Receiving treatment for antenatal depression, whichever treatment you choose, will help you to have a healthy pregnancy, keeping you and your baby safe.
Read Laura’s Guide to Living with Depression During Pregnancy at Psych Guides: