Depression During Pregnancy: How to Deal With It?
Prenatal care has been established to emphasize the physical health of the mother and unborn child while overlooking the emotional aspects necessary to prepare you mentally for pregnancy. Recent psychology studies link psychological issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression during pregnancy to low birth weight and preterm birth. On the other hand, postpartum depression is associated with poor coping with stress and little to no social support. A woman’s psychological health is as essential as physical health, especially when preparing to conceive.
It is imperative for maternal and fertility clinics to formulate strategies to mentally prepare women during pregnancy to enhance a smooth transition to motherhood. Even if you feel healthy during pregnancy, the psychological effects of childbirth, such as adjustment disorders, anxiety, and depression, can be overwhelming, especially if you lack sufficient psychological and social support.
This article explores some of the few important ways you can mentally prepare yourself when planning to have a baby.
Identify Potential Risk Factors for Depression During Pregnancy
About 10 to 15% of new mothers in Australia have been reported to experience postpartum depression (PPD). Many women believe new motherhood is great fulfilment with endless joy and infant bonding. Unfortunately, giving birth can trigger powerful emotions ranging from excitement, joy, fear, and anxiety. New mothers, especially first-timers, have been hospitalized because of PPD, which exposes the mother and the infant to health risks.
Identifying and understanding the risk factors of depression during pregnancy is the first step to mentally preparing for pregnancy. It would help you lower or eliminate the possibility of experiencing baby blues that many new mothers experience a few days, 2-3 days after welcoming a baby.
Here are some of the several risk factors for PPD women experience when pregnant or soon after giving birth to keep you informed:
- A family history of anxiety and depression
- You have a history of previous depression or PPD
- A current or recent stressful event such as a conflict in the family or with your partner
- Low self-esteem
- Insufficient social support such as empathetic listening from healthcare providers and individualized care
Other factors established to increase the risks of PPD, particularly when in combination with one or more of the listed factors above, include:
- Unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
- Low socioeconomic status
- Single marital status
It’s Important to Understand PPD
The importance of identifying and understanding if you are at risk for developing PPD can help devise monitoring interventions before delivery necessary to avoid experiencing postpartum illness. For example, if you have a history of depression, some studies have illustrated the health benefits of administering prophylactic antidepressants after birth.
There is increased support for non-pharmacological interventions such as intensive postpartum support from experienced healthcare professionals. The approach is touted because of its efficacy in lowering the risks of depression during pregnancy. Typically, if you learn about the PPD risk factors, signs, and symptoms early enough, it can help protect you and your infant from the negative health effects of PPD.
Symptoms of Post Partum Depression During Pregnancy
Some symptoms of depression after birth that you may need to watch out for include:
- Poor concentration
- Suicidal ideation
- Feeling sad or down often
- Loss of interest or pleasure in life
- Sleeping problems
- Lack of interest in your baby
- Not feeling attached to your baby
You should discuss with your healthcare provider if you experience the symptoms or other feelings bothering you during pregnancy or after giving birth. PPD can be prevented or avoided, and keeping your mind and body healthy remains the best way.
Know What to Expect
In life, having some expectations help us stay prepared. Likewise, it is always good for you to try and predict the changes to expect during the prenatal period. For example, women experience several physical and psychological changes during and after welcoming a baby. Some of the changes you may experience include:
- Swollen feet and extremities
- Pronounced stomach pooch
- Stretch marks
- Back pain
- Urinary incontinence
- Hair loss
While it might not be possible to predict what exactly to expect during the pregnancy period or after giving birth, the benefits of being prepared outweighs dealing with postpartum depression. Knowing what to expect during pregnancy allows you to put all measures in place to help you cope physically and mentally.
Look for Social Support to Deal With Depression During Pregnancy
Studies report reduced risks for depression during pregnancy for women who receive social support and care. You need to recognize that a woman’s social support is essential for developing psychological compatibility with her unborn child and developing and adopting a healthy lifestyle. A growing body of evidence shows mothers who receive support from a companion during the prenatal period experience a low risk of preterm or labour complications and significantly less PPD.
Emotional support plays a role in affecting your postpartum mental health. Other assistance such as house chores and baby care activities you receive from your significant others can also help. Expectant mothers can immensely benefit from emotional support from their spouse, family, and friends during the prenatal period. If you receive social support from your spouse, friends, or healthcare providers, you are less likely to be affected by psychological problems such as anxiety, distress, or depression?
How to Improve Emotional Support for Depression During Pregnancy?
Here are some useful strategies you can apply to improve emotional support:
- Constant communication with your spouse. Spend some time with your partner if you have one. It will help you raise concerns and see the best way to solve them. Frequent communication is also an excellent way to enhance the bond in your relationship.
- Spend quality time with family and friends. Family and friends can help you overcome some emotional challenges by assisting you with some activities, emotional support based on their experience, or any other concern that may be bothering you.
- Network with other expectant or new mothers. Sharing experience is one of the fundamental ways to help you overcome many psychological challenges many pregnant or new mothers experience. Networking with groups such as childbirth or parenting allows you to access vital information to support you during pregnancy and after having a baby.
Prioritize Your Emotional Health
Pregnancy and a new child can result in a range of emotions. You are likely to feel overwhelmed, anxious, or sad at different times. Studies show that many women experience emotional challenges including depression during pregnancy because they lack elaborate ways to deal with the increased maternal cortisol or stress hormones associated with pregnancy. However, other factors such as the covid-19 restrictions can increase your stress levels during the prenatal period. Psychological issues during pregnancy can harm your fetus hence the need to prioritize your mental health.
Tips you can use to protect your mental well-being.
- Avoid spending too much time alone. Less human interaction, especially during the current covid-19 pandemic, can leave you feeling isolated from family and friends. You can keep in touch with them but ensure you adhere to all covid-19 regulations.
- Engage in relaxation activities such as meditation, breathing, and spending time in nature can help in dealing with depression during pregnancy. These activities promote blood flow to the brain, enhancing relaxation and allowing you to unwind.
- Enrol in a parenting class and build a reliable network for information and social support
- Resist from negative-self talk instead practice cognitive reappraisal.
- Maintain positive and healthy communication with your partner or significant others.
Prepare Your Other Children Mentally
Talking openly and discretely about a new baby with your other children is important. Children have been established to experience jealousy towards a newborn in the family, which they display by behaving more babyish or withdrawal behaviours. You need to psychologically prepare your other kids for the new adjustment in the family. It will help to avoid fear, anxiety, or jealousy among your kids.
So how can you prepare your other children before the arrival of a new baby? The following are some things you can do to prepare your other child-
- Inform your children about your pregnancy. Let children learn from you about a new baby and not from other people.
- If you need to move the child to a new bed, make sure you do so before giving birth. It is to avoid making the child feel displaced and prevent too many adjustments at once for your child.
- You can visit friends with a new baby or read books about pregnancy or newborns or siblings with your children to allow them to raise their concerns and feelings and address them as early as possible.
- Teach your children how to properly hold a newborn. You can use a doll to familiarize them with the expected newborn sibling.
Preparing your other children early before the arrival of a new baby can help prevent sibling rivalry and aggression that may contribute to postpartum depression.
A Word from Fertility2Family
Mentally preparing for pregnancy is a powerful way for any woman who wants a smooth transition into motherhood. While we support proper physical health before and after giving birth, we acknowledge the fundamental role of emotional health, specifically in lowering the risks of postpartum depression and preterm birth and enhancing family cohesion.
If you plan to have a baby, try to psychologically prepare yourself and your spouse, and other children. Additionally, ensure you identify and understand the risk factors predisposing you to postpartum depression. The early awareness of the risk factors for PPD will help you seek the necessary interventions for a healthy and fruitful pregnancy.