How to cope if you’re feeling depressed during pregnancy

Many of us have heard of postnatal depression (PND) and thankfully more women have started to share their stories about their experiences of PND more often. However, something that is far less recognised or spoken about is antenatal depression (AND) which is feeling depressed during pregnancy.

Hands up if you are currently pregnant and are feeling joy and excitement but also perhaps anger, low mood with emotional bouts of tears?

Well, that’s completely normal. Pregnancy is an emotional time. It’s also a hormonal time.

But for some women, those standard pregnancy symptoms can be something more.

Statistically about 12% of women experience AND and feel depressed during pregnancy. Unfortunately, of that 12%, so many women will not share their feelings with anyone, making it difficult for healthcare professionals to treat.

Symptoms of antenatal depression can happen at any point during pregnancy and can include the following:-

  • Unusual amount of worry about giving birth and parenthood.
  • Lack of energy and disturbed sleep.
  • Losing interest in yourself or your pregnancy.
  • Feeling emotionally detached, teary, angry or irritable.
  • Chronic anxiety and/or panic attacks.
  • No interest in sex.
  • Poor concentration.
  • Sense of hopelessness about the future.

You may not experience all of these symptoms; some may just be due to normal pregnancy hormones. However, if you are in doubt, please talk to your midwife or GP.

What causes antenatal depression?

Antenatal depression can be caused by a hormonal imbalance. Although, because all women experience hormonal changes when they’re pregnant, it is unlikely to be the only cause.

There may be a physical cause if you’re feeling depressed during pregnancy, such as an underactive thyroid or low levels of vitamin B12. This can be easily treated, which is why it is vital to seek further support and medical investigations through your midwife or GP.

Other things that may contribute to the causes of antenatal depression are previous life experiences such as:

  • Previous baby loss.
  • Previous difficult birth experience.
  • History of depression.
  • Isolation, poor support, stressful living conditions or major life events.
  • Unplanned pregnancy.
  • Difficult childhood experiences and poor self-esteem.
  • Difficult relationship with partner.

Antenatal depression can be confusing and isolating, especially if your pregnancy was planned. Many women feel embarrassed to own up to feeling other than joy and excitement and some may feel scared to talk about their true feelings with their midwife or GP.

Society can put so much unnecessary pressure on women, portraying that pregnancy should be an exciting and joyous time and that if we feel the opposite, somehow we are not conforming to the ‘norm’ and can be perceived as unappreciative in some way.

Therefore, it is easier for women to keep quiet about their depression because they’re often embarrassed or worried about what people will think.

Spotting the signs early is key to getting better and to avoid any potential impact of the depression on your developing baby.

Things that can help if you’re feeling depressed during pregnancy:

  • Pregnancy yoga.
  • Practicing mindfulness.
  • Meditation and relaxation techniques.
  • Hypnobirthing classes.
  • Reading or listening to podcasts.
  • Eating healthy foods.
  • Listening to calming music (baby will enjoy this too!)
  • Going for a walk in pleasant surroundings such as a nice green space or the beach. The vitamin D from the sunshine is also a fantastic benefit too.
  • Talking to friends and family and accepting offers of help.
  • Antenatal classes.
  • Talking therapies such as counselling.

It is important that you do not stop or change your antidepressant medication during pregnancy without medical advice. Around 7 in 10 pregnant women relapse if they stop their medication. It is important to discuss the risks and benefits of continuing treatment in pregnancy and while breastfeeding with your GP.

Counselling can support you through this difficult time too, it is important to have a safe, confidential space to explore what you are experiencing and find strategies that will help alleviate some of the symptoms of antenatal depression.

If you are feeling depressed during pregnancy or know someone who is, please do not struggle on alone. I can offer you a free 15 minute no obligation telephone call to answer any questions you may have and to see if I could help you.