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Supporting depression in pregnant women

Pregnancy is considered a time of joy and excitement, but some women can also feel stressed and anxious… Research has suggested that 7% of women who are pregnant experience depression during their pregnancy1. Most people tend to go through periods of feeling down or upset, but when you are depressed you can feel persistently sad for long periods of time, rather than just a couple of days. Here we explain the signs of antenatal depression and how to find the help you need.

What is antenatal depression?

Antenatal depression is depression that is experienced throughout pregnancy (and can sometimes be referred to as perinatal depression). Many people are aware of postnatal depression (which happens after pregnancy), but it is lesser known that you can experience depression during pregnancy as well. Common signs of antenatal depression are feeling sad for a long time period, feelings of worthlessness, tearful for no apparent reason and generally feeling as if you are unable to cope. With the normal pregnancy hormone imbalances, it can be hard to differentiate between the two. 

What causes antenatal depression?

Antenatal depression can happen at any given point during a pregnancy. It is mainly caused by a hormonal imbalance, although as all women experience hormonal changes when they are pregnant it is unlikely to be the only cause. Other things that can play a part can be unplanned pregnancy, difficult childhood experiences, poor self-esteem, isolation, lack of support, previous miscarriages and previous difficult birthing experiences.

What can I do to help myself?

It is natural that you might feel isolated or confused when going through antenatal depression, but it is key to not keep it to yourself. It is important that you try to speak to your midwife or GP if you start experiencing these feelings to discuss treatment options; many women can feel embarrassed or worried about depression and typically don’t want to open up as they are concerned about what people may think. There are also some self-help methods that you can use: talking to friends and family can help, boosting your wellbeing through relaxing activities like pregnancy yoga, meditation or mindfulness can also help. It can also help to eat healthily, getting outside for some fresh air each day and doing moderate exercise whenever you can.  

You’re not alone

If you need help then don’t feel afraid about seeking professional guidance; counselling and talking therapies can help enormously, as professionals can suss out what is contributing to your depression. It is important to talk through these options with your GP or with mental health organisations like MIND.

See our website for more helpful support articles on pregnancy.

[1] Healthline: [accessed 14 February 2020]

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