Mental health during and after pregnancy

Being pregnant is definitely a state which brings about many changes, not all of them to your advantage. Feelings tend to amplify due to the surge of hormones, the body is changing and your life takes on a whole different dimension. With the little one on the way, you need to take care of your physical health, your diet, exercise and sleep regime, but also your mental health. Although a certain amount of anxiety is common while you’re expecting, in some cases it tends to exceed healthy limits and cause severe mental issues which may overflow into the after-birth period. This is not uncommon since one in five mothers experiences such difficulties. However, it may cause great harm to both  mothers and babies, as well as their families. It is crucial to talk to a professional at the first sign of discomfort.

The signs of depression in pregnancy

More often than not, symptoms of depression during pregnancy go unnoticed. You might think that changes in sleep, energy levels, appetite and libido are normal due to the fact you have a bun in the oven, but they just might be a red flag and a sign of a depression onset. Unfortunately, the stigma related to depression is still widely present and the majority of women will be reluctant to confide in their doctors. Doctors, however, still fail to focus more on understanding a woman’s prenatal mental health. Here are the telltale signs that something is wrong and you should reach out for help.

  •         You feel excessive anxiety about the baby
  •         You experience feelings of inadequacy about parenthood
  •         You find no pleasure in activities you used to deem enjoyable
  •         You fail to commit fully to prenatal care
  •         You indulge in smoking, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs
  •         You maintain a decreased or inadequate diet
  •         You have suicidal thoughts

The risk factors for such symptoms include suffering from anxiety, having a stressful lifestyle, family history of depression, unintended pregnancy or partner violence. Whatever the cause, the effects are severe. The child absorbs the strain the mother feels and suffers greatly while still in the womb, which makes it a health matter of grave importance. Treatment such as psychotherapy or antidepressants offer a long-term solution and a change for the better.

 Postpartum depression

The baby’s arrival may trigger powerful emotions, from excitement to fear and anxiety. Most new moms experience postpartum ’baby blues’ which includes crying spells, mood swings, sleeping difficulties and anxiety, lasting up to two weeks. However, some women experience a more severe change called postpartum depression. This may be brought about simply by complications related to giving birth, and is not a character flaw or weakness. Recognizing the following symptoms will help you on your way to recovery:

  •         Severe mood swings and excessive crying
  •         Difficulties bonding with your baby
  •         Shying away from your family and friends
  •         Loss of appetite or overeating
  •         Sleeping too much or too little
  •         Intense irritability or anger
  •         Feelings of inadequacy accompanied by shame and guilt
  •         Restlessness, anxiety and panic attacks
  •         Thoughts of harming either yourself or the baby
  •         Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

It is vital to differentiate between the symptoms of ’baby blues’ and severe depression. If you notice that some of these symptoms persist for longer than two weeks, it is imperative that you contact a professional and seek prompt treatment which will help you bond with your baby.

Treatment and how to get help

The first time you visit your health provider, speak to them openly about your full medical history. If you have had any similar issues in the past, or you know of a family member who did, inform your doctor about it. They will definitely point you in the right direction, starting from emphasizing the importance of your diet and sleep regime, to talks with a counselor or therapist.

Depression is very real, harmful for both you and the baby, and most certainly nothing to be ashamed about. If you feel more at ease, let someone accompany you to the recommended sessions. Eating and sleeping well will improve your overall health and mood, and you will feel that much- needed vigor to fight depression and anxiety all the way. Do not hesitate, and do not give up – the sooner you start the treatment, the better you will feel.


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