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Pregnancy Depression

Depression during pregnancy

Depression can be a sensitive topic. It’s typically a private condition and it can be difficult for many of us to talk about our feelings.

During pregnancy, you will experience an extensive range of emotions. These may range from bliss and excitement to stress or even fear. The changes your physical body goes through can also affect how you feel and react in different situations.

It’s important to acknowledge that there isn’t a right or wrong way to feel and behave during pregnancy. Every pregnancy and every mother is unique and ideally, you’ll feel confident in your ability to get through this major life event the best you can.

If you are unsure about whether you or even a close friend is struggling, speak with someone you trust. Depression during pregnancy is surprisingly common and it’s important that you know you are not alone. Australian research shows that ante natal depression affects as many as one in every 10 women.

The causes of depression during pregnancy

Pregnancy can be a wonderful time for many women. For others the discomfort and anxiety that often comes with pregnancy can become too much. This combination can leave many women particularly vulnerable to depression.

As well as the general physical discomforts of pregnancy, if other aspects of your life aren't going so well, you may become even more vulnerable. Some of the common causes of depression during pregnancy include:

  • Relationship tension with partner, family or friends

  • Complications with current or a previous pregnancy

  • Stressful life events

  • Low income and other financial stresses

  • Fertility struggles

  • Current or previous abuse

  • Family or personal history of depression or other mental health issues

  • Having an unplanned baby

  • Having a multiple pregnancy

  • Worrying about the baby

The symptoms of depression during pregnancy

It can be easy to miss the signs of depression in pregnancy. Moodiness and surges of emotion are common symptoms. But depression can become a dangerous problem for some pregnant women if it’s left untreated.

The signs of depression also vary from person to person, but there are some common signs to look out for. Here is a short list of some of the symptoms that you might have if you are suffering from depression:

  • Persistent anxiety

  • Extreme irritability

  • Constant issues with sleeping

  • Chronic fatigue

  • An endless appetite or loss of appetite all together

  • Change in libido

  • Not being able to enjoy situations you usually get pleasure from

  • Not feeling much joy at all

  • Constantly feeling sad.

  • Crying a lot

  • Thoughts of harming yourself or your other children

  • Feeling isolated and alone or even disconnected from other people

Treating depression during pregnancy

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, speak to your maternity care provider as soon as possible. If you’re struggling to take care of yourself and feel that you may be neglecting your health, you and even your unborn baby might be at risk.

Seeing a professional about how you are feeling is not a sign of weakness. It's a sign, in fact, that your maternal instincts are strong and protective and you want to feel better. It takes courage to ask for help. Be proud of taking the necessary steps to keep you and your baby safe.

Left untreated, chronic depression can make pregnancy a miserable time. It can also lead to further complications and risks. If you feel that you may need to start taking anti-depression medication, be sure to talk to your chosen healthcare professional first. It’s important that you are aware of any associated risks with taking any type of medication during pregnancy.

Speak to a professional:

If you prefer to talk to a professional from the comfort of your own home, there are some anonymous hotlines you can call. See list below.

  • South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG)

You can contact a counsellor or find a support group online.

  • Lifeline

    National counselling line: 0861 322 322


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