Pregnancy and motherhood bring with them the most dramatic life changes most women experience. It’s a time of hope and happiness, but also of fatigue and feeling overwhelmed.
Depression and anxiety is common during pregnancy, and may affect as many as 40% of pregnant women.
If you have experienced any of these you may be more at risk:
• A conflicted pregnancy, e.g. unplanned, ill-timed
• An ‘emotionally charged’ pregnancy, e.g. post-infertility pregnancies
• A complicated pregnancy
• Major stressful life events, e.g. a death in the family, miscarriage, relocation, losing your job
• Stress relating to your income or home (socio-economic factors)
• A lack of emotional support, especially from your family or partner
• Previous depression.
“You are your baby’s most important person, so take care of yourself,” says the chairperson of the Post Natal Depression Support Association (PNDSA), Dr Bavanisha Vythilingum, a specialist psychiatrist in private practice.
“There is no shame in experiencing depression during pregnancy – acknowledging how you are feeling and seeking help to ensure your emotional wellbeing is one of the greatest gifts you can give your child.”
Most new mothers have “the blues” shortly after birth. For a few days you may feel anxious, tearful, tired and irritable. This is normal and should clear up in about two weeks. If you are so blue that you cannot care for your child or yourself, have thoughts of hurting either yourself or the baby and are sad for more than two weeks, you could have postnatal depression and should seek help as soon as possible.
Postnatal depression can develop slowly and at any time during the first year of your baby’s life. Untreated, it can escalate and affect your interaction with your baby.