When a pregnancy is planned, it is often presumed to be a wonderful experience, with images of a woman glowing in her second trimester portrayed as the norm. When some women experiencing a less idyllic pregnancy begin to talk about their struggles, symptoms like morning sickness/mood swings/exhaustion can be dismissed as expected side effects of pregnancy.
But what about when low-mood and worry cross over into antenatal
depression and anxiety? Should they, too, be dismissed as hormonal variances? And even if mood swings, low mood and anxiety is to be expected, does that make it easy to cope with them?
Antenatal depression occurs during pregnancy, and affects up to one in ten women (9 per cent) in Australia. Antenatal anxiety is equally as common and often occurs alongside depression.
While some emotional distress and apprehension is absolutely normal for expecting mothers, depression and anxiety are not – and they can have a significant impact on physical and mental health. They can also have a lasting affect and can impact a woman long after her baby has arrived.
A number of factors can exacerbate symptoms, including:
A history of anxiety or depression prior to pregnancy or in a previous pregnancy
Foetal health problems during pregnancy
Stressful life events prior to or during pregnancy
Lack of social or emotional support
For some women, the enormous changes associated with pregnancy is enough to induce antenatal depression or anxiety, even when the mother has experienced none of the above factors.
There are a number of things you can do if you suffer from worry and anxiety or low-mood and depression during pregnancy.
Most pregnant woman know about pregnancy vitamins, pelvic-floor exercises and what types of foods to avoid during pregnancy. But self-care needs to go much further than physical care, especially when anxiety or depression is a concern. Our needs change during pregnancy and what may have worked for you before may need to be reviewed – this includes getting more sleep than you’re used to, taking more time to yourself, and seeking support for things that you may not have needed previously.
2. Trust your instincts
Feeling like this is not a choice you can “snap out of”. Anxiety takes up a significant part of your thoughts and prevents you from functioning normally.
You know yourself better than anyone, and if you feel something “isn’t right”, pay attention to those thoughts and get some more support.
3. Confide in your partner, a friend or family
You don’t have to experience this alone. Even if you find it hard to talk about it, seek support from those closest to you.
4. Know when to seek professional help
A pregnant woman experiencing symptoms should consult their GP or obstetrician if they experience symptoms daily for more than two weeks.
If you are concerned about anxiety or depression, you should consult your GP and/or obstetrician as soon as possible.
Counselling can provide support, education and skills to challenge the thinking associated with these conditions and find ways to reduce emotional distress.
If you are concerned about antenatal anxiety or depression, contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org