Prenatal Depression: What You Need to Know About It
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Can I be honest for a second? I kind of thought that prenatal depression was just another name for crazy pregnancy hormones.
That was before I had much experience with mental health issues, and long before I had my own children.
Life has a way of teaching and humbling you at the same time. Personally, I believe its a God thing.
A couple of years before I was pregnant with my firstborn, I remember watching a video on Youtube that was made by a young woman who was pregnant at the time.
She talked about how she was struggling with prenatal depression.
I didn’t get it. At all.
I thought she was just hormonal or anxious, or both.
How could you be depressed when you’re pregnant?! I mean, she wanted to be pregnant, so how could she then be sad about it?
Oh, how much I had to learn!
I have carried three babies, all of whom have been born fat and healthy.
All three pregnancies were hard. So hard, in fact, that based on that alone we are finished growing our family.
Prenatal depression played a big part in the pregnancy challenges I faced, and that’s what I want to share a bit about today.
Before I get started, I just want to put a disclaimer out that none of this information is intended to be treated as medical advice. I am simply sharing my own experience.
5 Things You Should Know About Prenatal Depression:
1) It is a Real Thing
I think it is common knowledge that a woman’s hormones go a little crazy when she is pregnant. I mean your body goes through a huge upheaval as it works to literally grow another human.
Prenatal depression goes beyond mood swings and despite what you might think, it doesn’t necessarily feel like being sad all the time.
In fact, in this article from Mother & Baby, one of the symptoms listed is a lack of interest.
Sure, there’s sadness and fatigue, but what was so incredibly out of character for me was the lack of interest I felt.
I felt a little detached from the pregnancy. It was like I was going through the motions, but I wasn’t feeling much of it.
I was diagnosed with prenatal depression during my third pregnancy, although in retrospect I can see that I had a little of it in all three. I also believe that I had postpartum depression after I had my second child.
Prenatal depression is not something you can just ‘get over’. No matter how hard you set your mind to it, the awful feelings that you feel laden with cannot be moved.
You know you should be happy and excited about the upcoming arrival of your baby, but all you can feel is a dull ache of sadness and absolutely no motivation.
The feeling of having no control over your emotions can even make things worse. I remember feeling so far from who I really was. I barely recognised myself.
Life wasn’t fun. It was just a case of getting through one day after another.
I’m currently 4-months postpartum and I wake up so excited to live out another day. It just goes to show how ill I really was at the time.
3) No One is Immune
Another misconception that I had once upon a time (read young and ignorant) was that prenatal depression only affected those with a history of anxiety, etc.
The stigma around mental health is still alive and thriving, which only serves to worsen the problem.
Depression of any kind doesn’t pick and choose. You can be the strongest, ‘got it together’ person in the world and still end up with it.
Pregnancy affects us all differently.
Some women claim that they barely feel pregnant (although, I still don’t quite believe them), while others like myself struggle the entire way through.
Before you are actually pregnant yourself you will have no clue as to what challenges you will face. Nor will you know how your body will react to the huge changes that will occur.
Because prenatal depression can affect anyone, it is really important to know the signs.
An article on Baby Center lists them as:
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- A feeling of sadness or emptiness
- Agitation or irritability
- Crying a lot of the time
- Overwhelming feelings of guilt
- Difficulty concentrating (A BIG one for me!)
- Life does not feel worth living
If even a single one of those seems to resonate with you, then I strongly urge you to talk to someone about it. And even if they don’t, but you do not feel like yourself, still talk to someone.
There is no shame in your struggles. We each deal with things differently.
The worst thing you could do is keep it to yourself. Please seek help. Talk to someone you trust and then make a plan from there.
I personally talked to my husband and mother about how I was feeling and then with their encouragement went to my midwife with my concerns.
I am and will always be very grateful for how seriously they all took my feelings. No one ever made me feel inadequate for the struggles I was going through.
3) Other Things Can Trigger It
Hormone changes are one obvious trigger for developing prenatal depression but there are other causes as well.
One of the most common issues in pregnancy is morning sickness and that is something that is a known trigger for prenatal depression.
My morning sickness worsened with each pregnancy. With my third it was awful. I was so incredibly sick for almost half of it.
In fact, I was so ill that we thought I might have been carrying twins. Of course, the thought of that brought with it a whole other barrage of anxiety and concerns because of all the potential complications that can occur with twin pregnancies.
There are just so many things that you naturally worry about when you become a mother. I know that I was super concerned about going into preterm labor because of all the contractions I was having. A NICU stay was a prospect that caused me a lot of anxiety.
Life doesn’t stand still when you become pregnant. Everything, the joys and the hardships keep happening all while your body is going through a huge amount of change.
I had intense morning sickness, SPD (symphysis pubis dysfunction), sciatica, and iron-deficient anaemia. I could barely care for myself and yet I also was responsible for my other two children who were just 3 and not even 1 at the time.
It was a lot for anyone, but all that I could feel at the time was frustration at being so inadequate.
It wasn’t until well into my third-trimester that we finally found the main trigger for my prenatal depression.
When I experienced postpartum depression after having my second baby I was also iron deficient.
During my third pregnancy, I was iron deficient for a good part of it. So much so that I struggled to function because of how weak I felt.
In both cases of depression, once my iron levels were therapeutic, the depression went away.
I haven’t researched to see if there’s a proven link, but it certainly was the case for me.
4) Prenatal Depression and Postnatal Depression
Postnatal depression has become more talked about in recent times and I am so grateful. But, did you know that having prenatal depression increases your risk of developing depression after you have had your baby?
I did know that which is why when I noticed the signs of depression during my pregnancy I sought help.
I wanted to get a headstart on things so that they didn’t escalate once my baby arrived.
My third pregnancy was likely my last and therefore it meant a lot to me to have it be a positive experience.
As much as I could I wanted to set up my postpartum time for success.
Postpartum depression can steal so many precious moments from you. It isn’t fair and I only wish that it wasn’t the case.
There is no real way to control what happens, but you can do your best to set yourself up for success.
If you think you might have symptoms of depression, I will again urge you to tell someone. Talk to a trusted friend, loved one, or your doctor. Let them know how you are.
5) It Can Get Better
As I said before, my prenatal depression disappeared once my iron levels had risen.
The rest of my pregnancy challenges remained, but I was far better able to cope with them.
So often, we don’t realise exactly how ill we were until we’re not anymore. The stark contrast of healthy vs sick really sheds light on how difficult everything was.
If you’re reading this right now and you’re feeling lost and alone let me tell you that you are not.
Depression has a terrible way of playing lies over and over in our minds.
You are worthless, you are inadequate, you are weak, you are good at nothing.
It is too easy to give into them.
Please, seek help. Talk to someone, anyone about how you’re feeling.
And then once you have help, start speaking the truth to yourself over and over again.
You are invaluable, you are loved, you are strong. You are a good mother and this world needs you in it.
This place that you are in. The feeling of feeling nothing. The crying and the anger. It won’t be forever.
You will move past it.
It will get better.
You will feel joy again and you will feel it all the more fully because of what you’ve been through.
Until next time,