Antenatal Anxiety and Depression

A change in moods, emotions and feelings is a very normal part of pregnancy.  So many changes are happening for the expectant mother, physically, emotionally and psychologically that some worry and stress can be very much part of the journey.

If however you are experiencing worry on most days and it is significantly impacting on your life, then it may be that you are experiencing an anxiety or depressive disorder. 

General concerns about what life will be life after your baby is born are all understandable and common at different stages of pregnancy.

But if those concerns start to feel like they are taking over, the negative feelings become overwhelming, and it starts to feel like your ability to cope and function are negatively affected – then it’s time to take action.

Antenatal anxiety and depression can certainly come as a surprise to many.

Post-natal depression and anxiety are quite commonly known, with anxiety occurring during pregnancy often being attributed to hormonal changes.

Anxiety and depressive disorders are however very common across the general population and certainly experienced by pregnant women.

Anxiety can be very common for women who have had previous stressors through pregnancy (such as miscarriages) or are undergoing relationship or financial stress.

What should you look out for?

  • Worrying thoughts that keep re-appearing (such as worries about the babies health)
  • Frequent strong emotions that impact negatively on your ability to function
  • Panic attacks – an overwhelming feeling of fear and panic which coincides with feeling out of control
  • Feeling on edge and irritated, feelings of grief, loss, anger or teariness
  • Physical tension through your muscles and a tightness in your chest.
  • A lack of enjoyment or pleasure in life
  • Thoughts of harming yourself
  • A previous history of anxiety or depression that may return during pregnancy

Who is at risk?

Antenatal anxiety and depression can affect anyone.  However some people who may be higher at risk may have some of the following characteristics:

  • A perfectionistic style
  • An unplanned pregnancy
  • Being younger than 18 years or older than 35 years.
  • Previous history of anxiety or depression
  • Family history of anxiety or depression
  • Lack of emotional and practical support from partner or others
  • Lower socioeconomic status
  • Recent stressful life events

What can you do?

A conversation with your GP, obstetrician or midwife is often an excellent place to start.

It could be that something else is happening for you, so a conversation with someone experienced in diagnosing and treating antenatal anxiety and depression is a recommended step forward.

There are safe and effective treatments available.

Treatment options?

Counselling is one option for treatment – talking with others (individually or in groups) can be highly beneficial for gaining support.

Psychological therapy – Cognitive behaviour therapy is a treatment that encourages you to notice the way in which you think about situations, notice thoughts that may be unhelpful and challenge and change those thoughts to something more constructive.

Interpersonal therapy can help you resolve any previous losses in your life and change and manage conflicts that may be impacting upon the anxiety.

Medication – With guidance from your GP, Obstetrician or Health Professional, some medication options can offer a safe intervention to assist with the feelings of anxiety and depression.  Your health professional will discuss with you any possible side effects as part of the decision making.

Each woman needs to be considered within her own personal circumstances and medical history

You are NOT alone.  Anxiety and depression through pregnancy does happen.  Please speak up, seek help and gain assistance.

Post and Antenatal Depression Association (PANDA): 1300 726 306

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