The Myth of Antenatal Depression

I have found as some one specializing in women's health that the reality can be very different. Depending on which statics you look at, anywhere up to 15% of women suffer from depression at any one time. This includes women in the antenatal period.

One client I worked described her experience of antenatal depression:

"I would do my best to look after my first child during the day, fall exhausted into the couch after she had gone to bed at 7pm, I would just watch the clock slowly drag on tick by tick until my husband came home at 9pm, and then hand over responsibility for our daughter to him. I could not bear to look at him or talk to him, I did not want him to feel or see the darkness I felt inside. " This lady went on to suffer from post natal depression.

When I first met her she was not aware there was such thing as antenatal depression. She had thought her family doctor and midwife would just know what she was experiencing and just take action. She later went on to support me in teaching health care professionals.

The common symptoms of Antenatal Depression are:

-Tired but unable to sleep, with an over active and worrying mind
-No appetite or comfort / over eating
-Agoraphobia ie fear of open spaces
-Crying more than is usually experienced or expected in pregnancy
-Feeling isolated and lonely
-Chronic anxiety and stress
-Obsessive compulsive behavior eg repeatedly washing hands
-Lack of interest in anything or preoccupation with the pregnancy

It is vital that health care professionals working with pregnant women ask them about how they really are. Due to concerns about stigma and the belief "I should be well" women do not always feel able to talk about what is going on for them. Should a women confess to feeling low it is essential that the professional asks them if they have had any thoughts of ending their own life or harm themselves. I have found that many women have felt a sense of relief, a sense that they are been taken seriously and it opens up the conversation as to how they can possibly be helped.

Women who are suffering from antenatal depression deserve unconditional love and support. There are alternatives to medication such as yoga, mindfulness and a healthy diet. One can visualize their pregnancy going well and seek information on pregnancies which are going well. Empowering mums to have an excellent pregnancy is extremely in her best best interest and the interest of her unborn child.