Recently, postnatal depression has been receiving a lot of media attention and greater awareness as a result, which really is fantastic! But… other topics not so widely spoken about are the reams of other postpartum mental illnesses, in addition to antenatal depression and anxiety.
Amy has spoken about her experience of postpartum psychosis on the blog already here, hopefully raising awareness of the fact that it’s not always so straightforward in relation to postnatal mental health! Today, I want to focus on antenatal depression and what it can look like. Similarly to postnatal mental health worries, it can be difficult sometimes to distinguish between depression, or “just hormones”.
A little foreword: my experience of antenatal depression started when I was around 5-6 months pregnant – it can of course start much earlier than that – and to some extent I already knew what the warning signs were, having suffered with depression in the past. Hopefully the following list will help someone else recognise the warning signs in either themselves or a loved one, and enable them to get help as early on as possible! Also I’m in no way medically qualified, these are just the tips from a mum who’s been through it!
1. Crying, all of the time
This is one of the most famous symptoms of pregnancy in general – crying, all of the time, at silly little things. BUT there is a point when it’s more than just crappy hormones making you all emotional. With hindsight I know that crying over a hoover breaking before I even knew I was pregnant was definitely just hormones, and I know equally as well that crying myself to sleep every night during my last trimester was not hormones, it was depression. This is one of those where you need to be the judge of what is normal for you! Are the raging emotions and mood swings worse than you think they should be? If so, err on the side of caution and flag it up with your GP – if they’re aware, they can help and provide you with support!
2. Obessively worrying
This is something I’m terrible at anyway, but I can always tell the days when my depression and anxiety hits me worst, because I will obsess over things to the point that I can’t get to sleep. If that’s you, still awake with worry at 4am, consult a GP. Sometimes it is normal to worry about being a mum for the first time, but if it’s constant, every night, and you can’t seem to get the thoughts out of your mind for just one second, that’s where it’s not quite okay and you might need some extra help working through the anxiety.
3. Low self-esteem
Pregnant me suffered a massive, huge, unbelievably enormous hit to the self-esteem. From about the 5th month of pregnancy onwards (when bump was starting to show), I hated my body. I did not see the miracle of life when I looked in the mirror, I saw FAT. And I hated it. I have one picture of me and my bump because of this and I regret it so so much. Again, every pregnant woman feels like a whale at some point, normally when we’re having to waddle at the end of pregnancy, but if you can’t stand to look in the mirror or get to the point where you’re crying over what you see when you do look, it’s probably depression.
4. Feeling isolated
This is a big one, particularly if you do have people around you supporting you, but you still feel alone! Firstly, you’re not, your baby will probably remind you of that by kicking you in a rib at some point. Secondly, we all need alone time but make time for friends. Make time to be with adults where you don’t have to concentrate on baby-related things. It can be difficult transitioning from a person to a parent, because you feel like you’re losing your identity. People no longer ask how you are, they ask how the bump is doing. It’s difficult to feel like you’re just the vessel and everyone only wants what you’re carrying, but it’s not true! Without you, the precious cargo would never have existed in the first place. If you do feel alone, reach out to people around you for support!
5. Sleeping trouble
The most common thing for expectant mothers in the sleeping arena is not getting enough of it! Particulary when the baby is running out of room in that womb, and still just as fidgety! But whether it’s too much sleep or too little sleep, they can both indicate depression and can really exacerbate the other symptoms. You’ll have enough sleep deprivation when baby arrives so try to get your head down when you can, without sleeping all day and becoming overtired. Find your balance, take a power nap when needed, and still make sure you’re getting out of the house every day. This is a bit more to do with self care to prevent making yourself ill, but it’s a valid symptom of depression, too.
What do I do if I think I have antenatal depression?
1. Speak to your midwife
2. Get an appointment with your GP
3. Self-refer to counselling with the NHS – here’s a link where you can find local counselling services!
4. Make your partner/family/friends aware of how you’re feeling so that they can give you some familial support
5. And, finally… take each day as it comes – some will be better than others so don’t let the bad days deter you from
These 5 steps will get you on the road to recovery, and after all, we all have to be well to be the best mummies we can be for our little babies!
Did you find anything else that helped you through antenatal depression? Let us know in the comments! Please share this post to raise awareness with the hashtag #MentalHealthMonday