We've all heard of postpartum depression, but did you know that prenatal depression is even more common? We take a close look at this maternal mood disorder with tips on how to treat it.
Picture this: you’re finally pregnant and preparing to welcome your new baby into the world. You can’t wait to hold their squishy legs and chubby cheeks in your arms and get to know their ever-developing personality. In short, you can’t wait to begin your journey into motherhood!
But then the unexpected happens. Rather than feeling joyful and excited, you find yourself feeling the total opposite. Sure, it’s normal to experience some days where you feel sad or blue (and that’s perfectly fine), but you slowly realise those feelings have gone on for too long. Well new mum, you might want to consider the possibility of prenatal depression.
All about prenatal depression
What is prenatal depression?
Prenatal depression, also known as antenatal depression, is a mental health disorder that occurs during pregnancy. In fact, did you know that depression during pregnancy is more common than postnatal depression? Research has shown about 13 percent of pregnant women globally experience prenatal depression. In Singapore, around one in five women is likely to suffer severely from prenatal depression.
What causes prenatal depression?
Frankly, pregnancy is not always sunshine and rainbows. As you need to adapt to the changes you’re experiencing, it can be physically and emotionally exhausting. And, if you’re a first-time mother, the adjustments may be more taxing.
It’s said that prenatal depression can be caused by a number of factors, including unplanned or unwanted pregnancy, working while being pregnant, or if you are a teenage, young or single mother – all of this can contribute to prenatal depression. Additional contributing factors include having a complicated pregnancy, fetal abnormalities and a history of miscarriage.
Symptoms of prenatal depression
“Why are you crying so much?”
“Why are you so emotional?”
It is easy to dismiss your feelings and blame the hormones. If that is the case, then every pregnant woman is depressed! No, it is not as simple as that. Some common symptoms of prenatal depression include:
- Extreme morning sickness (hyperemesis gravidarum)
- Mood swings, e.g inability to relate to others or cope with their responsibilities
- Changes in eating habits and sleep patterns
- Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, worthlessness, and/or guilt
- Loss of interest in the things you’ve always enjoyed
As some symptoms can be similar to pregnancy signs, women might brush them off and ignore them. Don’t do that! It’s crucial to be aware of them so that you can quickly get treatment. Otherwise, you are more likely to experience postpartum depression after giving birth. That will affect your ability to bask in your post-pregnancy glow and bond with your newborn bub.
Will the baby be affected by prenatal depression?
If your prenatal depression is deemed mild, it will not directly affect the baby. However, if left untreated, your depression could deteriorate further and affect both you and your baby. Expecting mothers with severe cases of depression can end up having premature deliveries and give birth to babies with lower birth weight. Babies may also encounter sleep problems, be diagnosed with behavioural issues, and other negative consequences.
Seeking treatment for prenatal depression
If you do end up feeling depressed during your pregnancy, please do not hesitate to seek help. Your doctor will recommend the necessary treatments, depending on the severity of your depression.
In mild cases of prenatal depression, counselling and therapy are the suggested treatment options. Getting your partner and other family members to help you out during this time is recommended too. Rest is beneficial for you and your baby! Also, find support groups that can help you cope with your thoughts and feelings.
Should your depression take a turn for the worse, your doctor may decide to administer the appropriate dosage of medication to treat it. Please heed your healthcare provider’s instructions and don’t go off your prescription.
You are not alone
When you are expecting, so much energy and attention is directed towards the baby, it’s easy to forget to look after yourself. Your well-being is important too, mummy! Yes, it is common for expectant mothers to experience a gamut of feelings, and not all of them are the good kind. That’s okay, that’s completely normal. Your feelings are valid.
However, if you feel that you’re exhibiting symptoms of prenatal depression, don’t hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional. Remember that you are not alone. It is not your fault, you did nothing wrong. And, you are most certainly not an unfit mother for having depression. Help is out there and available for you.
You’ve got this mama!