What Is Antenatal Depression?
Antenatal Depression is depression during pregnancy. Antenatal (also called prenatal) depression is a biological illness just like clinical depression. Antenatal depression is NOT something that occurs because a woman does not want to have a baby, because a woman will not be a good mother or because a woman is weak.
Antenatal depression deserves to be treated by society in the very same way that postpartum depression is treated: without stigma.
Antenatal depression affects as many 10-20% of pregnant women. One in five women who experience antenatal depression (also called prenatal depression) have a serious case. There is not a particular reason why some women are prone to antenatal depression - hormones, life stressors, predisposition to depression - but what was once thought to be the happiest time in a woman's life, is sometimes, well, not. Many women are afraid to speak out about their feelings of depression during pregnancy as they are afraid to be judged by society as "bad mothers" or "unfit mothers."
Women need to feel free to share their experiences with antenatal depression without the stigma of feeling like they are unfit mothers.
Who Is At Risk For Antenatal Depression?
- Women with unplanned pregnancies
- Women who feel lonely and unsupported during their pregnancies
- Women experiencing relationship problems or problems at home
- Women suffering the burden of financial issues
- Women whose own mothers were ambivalent or depressed about motherhood
- Women with a previous mental illness have an increased risk of antenatal depression
Even if you do not see yourself in this list, know that there are so many other reasons that you may feel depressed while pregnant. Pregnancy is an incredibly turbulent and emotional time for all women.
How Can I Prevent Antenatal Depression?
- Eat and sleep well
- Join a support group
- Exercise regularly
- Let your family and friends know how you are feeling
What Are The Signs and Symptoms of Antenatal Depression?
- Feeling sad and low most of the time
- Feeling guilty
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Being unusually irritable
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty eating
- Isolating yourself
- Feeling pessimistic about the future
- Finding no joy in previously pleasurable activities
- Reduced energy
- Blaming yourself for things that go wrong
- Suicidal thoughts
- Suicidal plans
If you feel that you are experiencing any of these symptoms, DO NOT HESITATE TO CALL YOUR OB AND GET HELP. While in previous years, the doctors cared more about the health of the baby, the new line of thinking is "healthy mom, healthy baby." YOU MATTER TOO.
How Do I Get Help for Prenatal/Antepartum Depression?
- Tell your doctor how you are feeling. Antepartum depression is not the same in-the-closet type of disorder that it used to be.
- Talk to your family about your feelings.
- Many types of therapy can be very beneficial for women suffering from antepartum depression.
- There are some types of antidepressants that have been approved by the FDA for use during pregnancy.
- If you don't feel comfortable talking to your doctor, talk to someone you trust. You don't ever need to face depression alone.
- Remember, "Healthy Mom, Healthy Baby" and don't let anyone make you feel badly for taking care of YOU. YOU matter too!
Resources for Antenatal Depression
AmericanPregnancy.org: American Pregnancy has a wonderful page with signs and symptoms of Antenatal Depression.
MGH Center for Women's Health provides resources and information for women at all stages of life, with a particular focus on reproductive psychiatry.
The Maternal and Child Health Library at Georgetown University has a full list of electronic resources covering antenatal and postpartum depression.
Beyond the Blues: A Guide to Understanding and Treating Prenatal and Postpartum Depression by Shoshana Bennett. Excellent book that provides information about risk factors, diagnosis, treatment, and research into mood disorders affecting pregnant and postpartum women.