What is antenatal depression?
Depression in pregnancy can occur at any point, feel distressing and is hard to predict. Symptoms may change over a time period of many weeks or they may start suddenly and unexpectedly.
It is estimated that 1 in 7 women will experience persistent symptoms of depression during pregnancy. These symptoms include:
- overwhelming feelings of sadness and hoplesness.
- loss of interest or pleasure in doing things you would normally enjoy.
- excessive feelings of tiredness and loss of energy.
- feeling inadequate and unable to cope with loss of confidence.
- irrational anxiety.
- loss of confidence.
- significant changes to appetite and sleep.
- regular tearfulness.
- uncertainty about being pregnant or even suicidal thoughts.
Many women feel pressure to be happy during pregnancy and this can result in feelings of confusion and guilt. However, if you are experiencing persistent symptoms or your symptoms are worsening, you should consider seeking help from your GP, midwife or health visitor.
What professional support and treatment is available?
Your GP and midwife/health visitor will ask you how you are coping, Use this opportunity to ask for their advice and support. If you find that you are are experiencing any mental health difficulties, contact them and arrange an appointment to discuss your symptoms. They will talk through your situation and discuss the different options available, including:
- increased professional visits/support
- local and national support groups and helplines
- counselling or therapy
- medication (there are national guidelines about which medication is safe to take during pregnancy and breastfeeding)
What can you do to help yourself?
There is not guaranteed way to prevent mental illness, but there are several things you can do which will decrease your risk including:
- be kind to yourself and realistic.
- do not set yourself too high expectations.
- make time for yourself.
- accept emotional support from those around you.
- accept practical support.
- get out and about.
- visit parent and baby groups.
- sleep / exercise / healthy eating.
- it is ok to have a 'pyjama day'.
Ways to cope
- talk to someone you trust about how you feel, such as a parent, sibling, partner or trusted friend.
- talk to your midwife or health visitor about how you feel
- keep active
- have a healthy diet
- find out about different ways to relax, such as yoga or meditation
- ask for help with things at home like chores and babysitting
- find out how to change your thinking patterns
- discuss the possibility of counselling or medication with your GP
- keep a journal of your feeling through pregnancy and beyond