Sunday, February 10, 2013

Prenatal Depression - Beating the Baby Blues Before Birth

Postnatal depression is relatively common, when a new mother finds herself miserable and unhappy following the birth of her baby, often due to raging hormones. Usually the depression lifts within a few days, weeks or months, although in some cases professional help is needed.

"The more we discuss it the more it encourages others to seek help. Depression is still taboo, not really accepted, but there isn't a need for the guilt, the isolation. Just tell someone."

Occasionally, however, expectant mothers start to feel depressed before the baby is born, a feeling made much worse as pregnancy is a time in a woman's life when the whole world expects her to feel happy, cheerful and excited. While it may sound bizarre, depression during pregnancy is much more common than you might think, affecting an estimated 10 - 20 percent of all future moms.

Why We Get Prenatal Depression

Many women experience the usual mood swings during pregnancy, often brought on by hormones. Problems with partners, which often are combined with worries about money, can exacerbate the situation. However, there are some factors which may make you more prone to prenatal depression than other people. They include:

* Problems with the pregnancy. In an ideal world, we get pregnant easily, soar through a fantastic pregnancy and deliver the perfect child in two pushes. Sadly, that's often not the case. If you suffer from nasty morning sickness or something more serious, such as potential problems with your unborn baby, you can easily begin to feel unwell, unhappy and frightened.

* General stress. Many of us have stressful lives, which normally we cope with fairly well. But when we have the added burden of pregnancy - and the thought that soon we'll have responsibility for someone else's life as well, then things can build up fast.

* Problems with your partner. Any type of difficulty with your partner, be it husband, boyfriend or girlfriend, can make you experience anxiety over becoming a parent, whether it's the first time or the fifth.

* Past history of abuse. Women with a history of abuse, sexually or otherwise, may have mixed feelings about their pregnancy. They may, subconsciously or consciously, not want to bring a baby into such as cruel world. Also, the feelings that your body is "out of control" may being back feelings you had in the past of feeling utterly helpless.

* History of problems getting pregnant. If you had IVF or just had difficulties conceiving, you may feel undue pressure on you to feel completely overjoyed now that you're finally pregnant. Sometimes that pressure becomes too much and backfires, making you feel miserable.

* Feelings of lack of control. Women who regulate their lives with military-like precision sometimes feel that pregnancy is something they cannot control, and therefore something to be feared.

* History of depression. If you or a close family member suffers from depression or has in the past, you have a greater chance of being depressed during your pregnancy.

Symptoms of Prenatal Depression

Many of the symptoms women who have the baby blues - before their child is born - experience are similar to those who experience depression in general. Keep in mind, however, that everyone feels depressed from time to time, and having some depressed times during your pregnancy does not mean you are suffering from prenatal depression. Saying that, some symptoms include:

* Crying

* Undue anxiety

* Sleep problems which are not due to frequent urination

* Unending or deep feelings of fatigue

* Appetite disturbance

* Loss of enjoyment of regular activities which you previously enjoyed

* Poor fetal attachment

What to Do About It

If you feel that you or someone you know may be suffering from prenatal depression, the best thing to do is to talk about it. Sharing your feelings and realizing that you are not the only person in the universe not to feel 100 percent elated about being pregnant is the first step. You may be surprised about how common your feelings are, and sometimes sharing your fears is all you need.

Other ways to combat depression involve taking good care of yourself. That will mean eating right, sleeping right, doing gentle exercise regularly and allowing yourself time to get pampered and focus solely on you. Some women also like to try acupuncture or other alternative therapies that are safe for pregnant women.

In some cases, you may need to get help from a trained medical professional. Cognitive behavioral therapy often works well, as does group therapy. Some women benefit from sessions where they learn to meditate and relax. For others, medication is required.

Case Study

"Jenny Knight" (not her real name) tried to get pregnant for years due to severe endometriosis, and when she did, she felt elated. But that elation quickly gave way to depression. "Everything would upset me. I didn't feel so much depressed as much as very moody. It didn't make sense as I was enjoying my work again and life was moving on, so I didn't know why I was feeling so low," she says.

Very quickly, Jenny's feelings of moodiness began to get replaced by intense feelings of fear. She began to worry that she would miscarry and lose the baby, and became obsessed with a nagging feeling of potential loss. That feeling was exacerbated when her army husband, George, went on a tour of duty abroad for six months.

"I started having the feeling that now that I had been given the baby inside me, that something bad would happen to him instead," she says. "It just didn't make sense. Here I was with the thing that I wanted most in the world after all these infertility treatments, and I was feeling anxious, very scared, and I could see that a lot of how I felt was irrational, it certainly wasn't normal."

Jenny wanted to tell her husband how she felt, but that fact he was far away made it difficult. She also felt he would find her attitude "disloyal". So she finally broke down and told her doctor the truth. "I couldn't cope with the lies anymore, I didn't like lying to both sets of families, my husband and friends. I just felt it was all a farce, and that really broke me rather than the final thought of the baby."

When her son Gerry was born, he didn't initially cry and Jenny was positive he had died. But once she realized he was okay things slowly began to get better. She saw a counselor for ten weeks and slowly began to bond with her baby. "Eventually I found a book bout prenatal depression written with case histories. It made me realize I wasn't the only one in the world, and that I wasn't on my own," she says.

"The more we discuss it the more it encourages others to seek help. Depression is still taboo, not really accepted, but there isn't a need for the guilt, the isolation. Just tell someone."

The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care an appropriate health care provider.

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