Just two small pink lines, and yet they have the power to turn our world upside down. Once the pregnancy test confirms that we have a baby growing inside us, we can’t help feeling overwhelmed. It is, to say the least, the biggest change we might go through. It is permanent. And as the pregnancy test points out, it is already rolling towards us.\
Each of us women react to this mammoth of a life event differently. Some of us feel like they are high up on cloud nine, some of us start planning for months ahead of us, and some of us feel their nerves taking control of their emotions.
And some of us, one in ten of us to be precise, feel engulfed in sadness. Pregnancy doesn’t seem like the happiest time of our life but instead as something that leaves us bleaker every passing day. We try our best to stay upbeat and to look at the brighter side and yet, we find something pinning us down constantly.
This feeling of hopelessness isn’t temporary, days pass but it doesn’t go away and it totally eclipses your maternal joy. If you are among such women, going through this constant agony, you might be suffering from prenatal depression.
Prenatal Depression is often an Undiagnosed Illness
Prenatal depression is a form of mood disorder which a woman might go through during her pregnancy. The depression is accompanied by anxiety, sadness, obsessive-compulsive disorder and even suicidal thoughts. It can affect a pregnancy in a number of ways which may lead to miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight of the infant and increased risk of the child growing with emotional and behavioural problems.
With serious consequences, prenatal depression is nothing to brush under the carpet. But sadly, that is what most mother suffering from it end up doing. Only 20% of expecting mothers suffering from prenatal depression end up being diagnosed and hence treated. Reason being, the awareness around prenatal depression is still weak. Postnatal depression, depression after the baby is born, has finally been recognized, but that is not the case with prenatal depression. Sadly, it is often an undiagnosed prenatal depression that later crops up again as a postnatal depression in mothers.
Another reason for lack of awareness around prenatal depression is that the feeling of sadness that affected mothers describe is often blamed on hormones or just baby blues. Societal expectations of an expecting mother is that she should just ‘bloom and glow.’ This unrealistic expectation often pushes a woman already suffering from depression into a further vicious cycle of guilt. According to Louise Howard, consultant perinatal psychiatrist and professor of Women’s Mental Health at King’s College London,
“There is the expectation that a woman’s experience of pregnancy should always be joyous, but the truth is pregnant woman can often put emotional and mental pressure on themselves to feel happy all the time.”
Pregnancy Triggers Prenatal Depression
Let’s be honest. Worrying during pregnancy is quite normal, every pregnant woman does it. We struggle with the colossal changes that our body is going through; we worry about how pregnancy is changing our relationship with our partner. Many of us worry about financial matters such as is the house big enough for the family or do we have enough saving. For those of us who had a hard time getting pregnant or a difficult previous pregnancy may be worried about that. And trust me, this worrying is positive, it is all right. We all need an optimum amount of anxiety in our lives to push us to do our best.
However, while most worry and enjoy the pregnancy together, some of us cannot look past the worry, no matter how hard we try.
Most of us worry for days and then get over it, some find that the feeling of being low lingers on them for weeks or months at a stretch. And that is when you know this worrying serious, this is important enough to mention to the doctor.
Lack of support from family or partner or a family history of an affective disorder can also aggravate the condition.
Talking about Depression is Half the Battle Won
If you feel that you are constantly clouded by the worry, anxiety and sadness, do not keep it to yourself. Do not feel embarrassed or guilty about these emotions because depression is not a choice, it is an illness. There are many more mothers who are in the same boat as you. You deserve compassion and therefore without hesitation talk your feelings out.
You may want to share what you are feeling with your partner or family members or close friends. You’ll be surprised to hear stories similar to yours from other fellow mums.
More important than that, don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings with your doctor. Your doctor will be the best person to assist you in understanding, diagnosing and giving you the appropriate support you need.
Once the doctor assesses you, he or she can tailor a treatment plan for you. The plan may include providing you emotional & practical support, counselling, therapy sessions and medications.
Take a Break, Even When it is Hard to Do So
One of the things that you can do to deal with prenatal depression better is to take a break. Often pregnant mothers stretch themselves too thin preparing for the arrival of the baby. However, nothing is worth it if it is leaving you tired and worried. Therefore, consciously take out time to relax, rest and have fun.
Pursue a hobby or learn something new.
Meet your friends and talk about your feeling with them. Try to take out alone time with your partner and go for a movie or a date. Do not overwork or tire yourself out with household chores. Do not hesitate to ask for help from family and friends for a few of such chores. It is also helpful if you can find a local support group for pregnant women and join it. Stay active.
And most of all, do not ever feel guilty. Prenatal depression is a tough battle, but like everything grey cloud, this too shall pass.
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