While the whole process, right from trying to conceive to actually getting pregnant can be easy and exciting for some couples, it can be rather stressful and particularly challenging for others. is a long time and your body, mind and whole life are going through some dramatic changes. This can take a toll on your mental and emotional well-being, going as far as causing prenatal depression.
Prenatal depression is a form of depression that affects women during pregnancy. It is important to talk about this, as it can not only affect your own health, but also that of your baby. Not to be confused with the general moodiness and sadness caused by hormones, which fade away within some hours, prenatal depression can last for months at end. If untreated, it can lead into postpartum depression, severely affectthe mother, the baby and the whole family at large.
Unfortunately, prenatal depression isn’t just about being in a sad mood or something you can snap out of immediately. It’s an illness that continues to affect more pregnant women than you know.
Some symptoms of prenatal depression are common with the regular symptoms of pregnancy, such as fatigue and inability to fall asleep. However, some symptoms run deeper, and identifying them is the first step in starting recovery.
This doesn’t just mean inability to get out of bed because of your big baby belly and aching feet. Nor does it mean that you want to stay in bed because it feels too cosy. When you’re suffering from prenatal depression, you literally lack the motivation to move your body. It doesn’t matter if you have a whole lot of tasks waiting to be finished, or if you need to shower – you just cannot convince yourself to get out of bed. Sometimes days go by, and all you’ve done is hidden from the world, under the safety of your blankets.
You cannot really control how anxious you feel. You may be fine throughout the day, but then you’ll wake up in the middle of the night, struck by panic and intense anxiety over something, anything. You’re constantly freaking out over the delivery, your baby’s health, your ability to be a good mom, whether your husband will love you , what your life will turn out to be – the list goes on. And if you have nothing to worry about, then you get anxious about that! While the mild and occasional anxiety during pregnancy is normal, if you find your anxiety attacks leaving you physically and emotionally unable to function normally, or pushing you to act out without thinking things through, it’s a sign of prenatal depression.
Lack of interest or motivation to do anything is one of the glaring signs of depression in general. It doesn’t matter if your favourite movie is on or your best friends have travelled from out of town to surprise you – you start to feel detached and disinterested in your surroundings. In fact, you even struggle to feel excitement and anticipation for your soon-to-arrive baby while everyone around you is busy celebrating and gushing over you. You may start to lose interest in food as well, often leading to skipping meals simply because you “forgot” or “weren’t hungry”.
Unfortunately, your feeling of disconnectedness doesn’t limit itself to your friends and family alone, it also extends to your baby. Over the course of the pregnancy, it’s natural for a bond to form between the baby and the mother. But this isn’t a hard and fast rule, and there are many mothers who feel that same connection form instantly when the baby is born. However, under depression, your sense of detachment continues to carry on from the pregnancy days to after the baby has arrived, despite your best efforts to form that connection.
Communicating with your loved ones feels like a physically and emotionally draining process. You struggle to relate with what they’re telling you, and you simply don’t have the energy to talk to them. Although you feel extremely lonely, you end up pushing yourself further down this path of alienating those who care about you and those whom you love.
You’re already spending so much time dealing with crippling anxiety, moodiness, feeling emotionally sluggish and lonely, that you soon start to think you’re not fit to be a parent at all. Fear takes over, making an already difficult situation much more painful. The result? You find yourself in the middle of a breakdown – you’re feeling hurt, angry, scared and guilty, all at the same time. You start to think, how can you take care of a baby, when you can’t even take care of yourself?!
If you’re experiencing even one of these signs, please do not bottle it up within yourself. Talking to someone you trust is one of the strongest ways to recover. Seek the help, support and empathy of your partner, your friends and a therapist. Be gentle and patient with yourself, give yourself some love. Just because you’re experiencing this now doesn’t mean you have to experience it for the rest of your life. You have a wholesome life waiting for you; do what you can to help you make the most of it – even if it means seeking help from others.