Pregnancy (antenatal, prenatal) depression can affect around one in ten pregnant women. No doubt this has been around for a very long time but is only recently scientifically and medically being recognised as a significant issue for some pregnant women, perhaps even as common as postnatal depression. Pregnancy naturally causes peaks and troughs in general mood, due to hormones, physical changes and stress associated with the pregnancy, but if you feel that your mood is low more than you are feeling happy and you are feeling particularly anxious, you should talk to your GP or midwife. The earlier you are able to seek help and put support in place, the better you will feel moving into the birth and postnatal phase. Counselling at this stage can be helpful in talking through your anxieties and putting into place coping mechanisms.
Postnatal Mood Disorders
In general terms, ‘baby blues’ is a common experience for new mums and tends to occur soon after birth and up to 10 days after baby is born. ‘Baby blues' is generally associated with the hormonal changes following birth and can lead to low mood and tearfulness.
Postnatal depression, however, is where the low mood lasts for weeks or months, and is often associated with other ‘symptoms’ such as anxiety and OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder). Postnatal depression is said to affect approximately 1 in 8 women and can occur any time in the year after your baby is born and can continue into the second year after birth.
There are several risk factors that may increase the likelihood of postnatal depression:
- Any trauma associated with the current pregnancy/birth,
- Or previous birth trauma
- Pregnancy loss
- Relationship difficulties or lack of social support
- Previous history of depression or pregnancy anxiety
- Low self esteem or being overly self critical
Some of the symptoms associated with postnatal depression are:
- Long lasting low mood
- Lethargy, difficulty sleeping, (often difficult to quantify with a baby to look after)
- Feeling withdrawn, not wanting to go out
- Panic/anxiety attacks
- Low self esteem, feeling guilty
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Thoughts of suicide and self-harm
This is by no means an exhaustive list and not everyone will experience the same symptoms, you are the best guide as to how you feel. Sometimes, it is hard for the woman to realise they are feeling depressed and you may need to rely on feedback from those who know you, such as your partner, family and close friends.
Talking to your GP, midwife or Health Visitor about any concerns you have is vital in putting into place the help and support you may need. Sometimes having someone to go with you to the GP can be helpful.
Postpartum (Puerperal) Psychosis
This is a serious but rare postnatal disorder that occurs in the days and weeks after baby arrives. The symptoms tend to be extreme, whether it is low mood, mania, hallucinations and thoughts about harming yourself or your baby. This is a medical emergency and usually requires hospitalisation. If you or your partner/family have any concerns please seek help from your GP immediately.
Counselling for pregnancy and postnatal depression alongside any medical input can be beneficial as it provides the opportunity to talk through how you are feeling and to put into place coping mechanisms. Counselling can be used as a form of therapy along side medication from your doctor; it is important to discuss this with your doctor and counsellor for an effective collaborative approach. Debbie Kelly also offers individual and couples therapy for spouses experiencing relationship difficulties after the arrival of a new baby.
Please visit my links page for details of further online support and information.
Debbie Kelly MSc is an experienced counsellor working in Basingstoke in North Hampshire. She sees clients experiencing life challenges concerning anxiety, depression, work stress, grief and bereavement, relationship difficulties and miscarriage/pregnancy loss.
Contact Debbie on 07590 572866 or email to arrange a free 20 minute introductory meeting.