Perinatal Depression – When Depression Comes Before Baby is Born

Most pregnant women have some awareness of post-natal depression as it is a clear agenda item for our health care providers. We are told of the signs and symptoms, when and what to look for.

But what about when depression sets in when you are still pregnant?

Perinatal depression is a common mental health condition that occurs when a woman is still pregnant with her child. There is a focus on the physical changes that come with carrying a baby, but very little focus or information on the emotional changes that occur.

It can be a very overwhelming time; the prospect of having responsibility for another human being can be too much for some women. Combined with the hormone overdrive, changing body shape, tiredness and potential financial pressures, a woman can easily slip into depression. It is important to acknowledge that like some unexpected physical health issues, mental health issues can also come up in pregnancy.

It is important to talk about how you feel, and seek help if necessary. Some important ways to look after yourself and your mental health in pregnancy include:

  • If you have experienced mental health issues in the past, be sure to let your care give know so you can respond if symptoms return.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself – make time rest and relax.
  • If you have a partner, talk about the positive impact the baby will have on your lives when she or he arrives.
  • If possible arrange for your partner to be at home with you for the first week after your baby’s arrival. If that is not possible, look in to other support networks, such as friends or family who may be able to support you in these early weeks.
  • Talk to someone you trust, about how you are feeling. Often sharing the problem can help to reduce the anxiety around it.
  • Ask questions or talk to your care giver (GP, obstetrician or midwife) about how you are feeling – particularly if your feelings are having a major impact on your general well being.

If you or your partner are experiencing symptoms of depression or anxiety, you can seek help through Beyond Blue or PANDA

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