Prenatal Depression – Everything You Should Know

Is depression as common as we think it is?

Depression is such a complex concept, which people find hard to discuss but is quite prevalent. In India, we put so much pressure on ourselves and, by extension on our near and dear ones to get things done and to do the right thing. We rarely speak about issues or give space for discussion for an emotional problem, because we feel it is a taboo or a sign of weakness to show our vulnerability. It is because of these reasons, 1 amongst every 20 Indian over the age of 18, suffers from depression.

Now, let’s get to know a little about prenatal (antenatal) depression.

What is prenatal depression?

Also known as antenatal depression, prenatal depression is a clinical depression which affects a woman during the course of her pregnancy (around 7-20% of pregnant women) and it can in future lead to postpartum depression.

What are the signs of prenatal depression that you should look out for:

  • Lack of interest in things that brought you joy
  • Persistent unexplained sadness
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Sleeping a little too much or too little
  • Replaying thoughts of suicide/death, hopelessness, and guilt in your mind
  • Anxiousness
  • Self-sabotage and feeling worthless
  • Eating disorders
  • Low energy levels

What could trigger prenatal depression?

  • Relationship/spousal problems
  • A history of personal/familial depression
  • History of miscarriage
  • Treatments for infertility and difficulty in becoming pregnant
  • Stressful job/situation in life
  • Abuse or trauma in the past
  • Body image issues
  • Unplanned pregnancy
  • Lack of support before and during pregnancy

Can prenatal depression affect your baby?

Depression apart from affecting your physical (malnutrition) and emotional well being ( suicidal thoughts, getting into substance abuse) has irreversible effects on your baby. These include:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Developmental disturbances
  • Less attention span
  • Low activity and quickly agitated

Can prenatal depression be treated?

We all know about postpartum depression, what few people don’t discuss much is prenatal depression (also known as ante-natal depression). Some women in their pregnancy, force themselves to be happy, thinking that the sadness and dull feelings are a part of pregnancy (or they are told to believe that it is just their hormones). They feel it is wrong to feel sad during one of the most joyous experience for a woman i.e., their pregnancy. Well, it is not and moreover, it is okay to speak up about your feelings, fears, and depression.

The first step is to acknowledge that something is “not right” and talk about your feelings. If you feel unsure, do speak to your spouse.  And if he is being difficult or busy, speak to a friend, close family member or your doctor, tell them about your situation and ask them to make your husband understand your situation.

Other ways that can help in managing parental depression is:

  1. Joining a support group
  2. Consulting a psychiatrist ( after consulting with your gynecologist)
  3. Anti-depressants  like tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are given ( this must be prescribed and approved by your doctor as these drugs may impair the growth and development of your baby. Do not self-medicate or listen to random advice)

Things to do to beat the “baby- blues”

  1. Exercise: A walk in the park or around nature helps you feel serene and tranquil and helps in boosting your mood and immunity.
  2. Meditate: Everything will fall into place if you just let things be. Worrying never solved anything. Rather, try meditating and get into a happy place (there are a lot of guided meditation tracks available online and on YouTube, which may help you if you find it hard to meditate).
  3. Music therapy: Classical music and soft sound help in calming our mind. Do give it a try.
  4. Diet: Reduce the amount of sugary and processed carbohydrates. Cut down on that caffeine and increase the amount of protein consumption. Consuming omega-3 fatty acids (mercury free) has been proved beneficial to combat depression.
  5. Rest & Relaxation: Rest whenever your body needs it. Don’t strain yourself. Relax and take things into your stride, you have a new life to worry about, and that is the only thing that should be on your mind.
  6. Get a hobby: Be it learning a guitar or painting or craft if you can afford it hire a teacher who offers services nearby/can come home or, take the autodidactic approach and learn by yourself (lots of information available online).
  7. Read inspirational and positive books: A good book can change a life. Get into the habit of reading a good book ( if you are lazy like I am, consider listening to an audiobook).
  8. Gather your support: Even the mightiest and strongest need the help of people. We all sail in the same boat and experience the same joys and sorrows. So, whenever you feel low, have someone to talk to honestly and openly. It will make a world of a difference.
  9. Stress less: Learn how to not worry about insignificant things and live in the moment.

Prenatal depression is not something to be ashamed of. In fact, it takes strength to acknowledge and accept that there is an issue that needs to be worked upon. Take the first step and acknowledge and speak about it, help will naturally come.

A book, called “Daring Greatly – by Brene Brown” (which would be a good read during your pregnancy) shows how we can find strength in vulnerability! The book is packed with good wisdom and to quote one which is apt for the topic is “Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.” So if you are sad or depressed, speak up! Even if the issue may be silly.

 

 

 

 

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Aishwarya

Dr. Aishwarya Rajeev has completed her MDS degree and is currently pursuing her PhD. She is an avid reader and loves to teach and write!

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