Struggling with Anxiety or Depression During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is supposed to be the happiest time of a woman’s life! Contrary to what most people believe or portray, pregnancy can bring a mix of emotions, many of which are negative and a real blow to one’s self-esteem. It can be a time of fear, confusion, stress, and worry. This is not uncommon and it’s important for you to know that you are not alone.
Pregnancy can feel even more overwhelming if you're feeling anxious or depressed.
Mood swings are also very normal during pregnancy. If you feel nervous or down all the time or even some of the time, that could be a sign something more could be happening with an underlying mental health issue.
For first time moms or even second or third time moms, the stress over being a parent, the changes in your body during the pregnancy, and everyday life worries can feel like a burden. Often anxiety and depression are not diagnosed properly or simply overlooked during pregnancy. Many times, medical professionals brush off these symptoms relating them to just “hormonal imbalances”.
Let’s discuss depression and anxiety during pregnancy so you can better understand what it is, identify the signs and symptoms, and learn strategies for how to cope with a perinatal mood disorder.
What is anxiety and depression during pregnancy?
Depression during pregnancy is a mood disorder just like clinical depression. A mood disorder is a mental health condition that primarily affects your emotional state. It is characterized by a persistently depressed or saddened mood or loss of interest in activities that are causing significant impairment in daily life.
During pregnancy, hormone changes can affect the chemicals in your brain which are directly linked to anxiety and depression. Anxiety is a biological reaction characterized by intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. According to the American Congress of Obstrictirans and Gynecology, between 14-23% of women will experience anxiety or depression during pregnancy.
What are the signs and symptoms of anxiety and depression during pregnancy?
Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear over things that could happen. The most common signs of anxiety include:
Inability to concentrate
Difficulties falling asleep due to worries
Depression is sadness or feeling down or irritable for weeks or months at a time. Some common signs of depression in pregnancy are as follows:
Persistent, uncontrollable sadness
Difficult in concentrating or focusing
Sleeping too much or too little
Lost of interest in normal activities
Thoughts of harming yourself or recent thoughts of death
Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness
Change in eating habits
Anxiety and depression can be experienced simultaneously together or each on their own. Some women feel distressed or guilty for having anxious and depressive symptoms when everyone else expects them to be happy. These feelings are serious mental health conditions and are not a sign of weakness.
How can you manage anxiety or depression during pregnancy? How can you get help?
If you are feeling anxious or depressed, it’s important to talk to a doctor, counselor, or therapist and get help right away. The sooner treatment begins, the sooner you will start to feel better.
Here are some options that can help you manage depression or anxiety during pregnancy:
Talk therapy is an effective solution to help manage mental health concerns while pregnant. Talking one-on-one with a therapist can be a positive way to manage stressors, deal with depression, and ease anxiety. This is a non judgemental space where you can be heard and understood. It’s best if you can find a therapist who is an expert in maternal mental health or even a certified mental health counselor since they will have specific training and expertise to help you.
Finding a support group where you can share your concerns, emotions, and thoughts with other mothers who are experiencing the same as you could also be helpful. There are many support groups available such as Postpartum Support International.
Prescription medications are another solution to manage anxious and depressive symptoms during pregnancy and during the postpartum period. I encourage you to have a conversation with your doctor or psychiatrist about your emotions, thoughts, and symptoms to determine if medication is the right solution for you. Many medications exist that are safe for your baby that will help you in this time of need. Your doctor will be able to establish a healthy treatment plan that is best for you and your baby.
Other approaches that pregnant women could find comforting or helpful are activities like yoga, exercise, and meditation. Also, talking to a friend, family member, or other supportive moms could be beneficial.
Don’t let depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns become a barrier to getting the medical care you absolutely need for yourself and the health of your baby. It is extremely important if you or your loved one has any of these issues that you get help from an expert so you can enjoy your experience during your pregnancy.
If you feel that you are struggling with anxiety or depression while pregnant, I invite you to contact me for your complimentary consultation at 954-391-5305.