For some pregnant women, far from feeling the excited anticipation of expecting a baby, the state of pregnancy itself can create up negative feelings. This can lead to confusion and sadness that the expected emotions in pregnancy are absent. We read and hear a lot about postnatal depression, which occurs after the birth of a baby, but little is known or documented about depression during pregnancy.
This guest post is written by a fellow midwife who when found herself pregnant 2 years ago, couldn’t understand why she felt, flat, emotional and depressed. Unaware of the signs of antenatal depression she almost ended the pregnancy altogether. But with the right help and support she is now loving being a Mum to a beautiful little girl and wants to share her experience of antenatal depression.
‘I’ve always known I was meant to have children. It was as natural to me as breathing. Of course I’d be a mother. Watching babies – and mummies – be born every day it’s always at the forefront of your mind.
Admittedly, when it did happen, I wasn’t quite prepared for it. I had a wonderful, supportive man, a good job and a new house, so no reason not to, right? It was a bit of a shock but we shrugged our shoulders, took a deep breath and said lets do this.
Whilst it was a secret (we didn’t even tell our parents until after the 12 week scan) it was fine. No one expected anything of me. I felt a bit sick, really tired and cried at the drop of hat but that was normal.
After the scan I started to notice I didn’t feel quite right. People kept saying how excited I must be – I’d been complaining about how broody I was for the past couple of years – but I felt nothing. Just flat. No emotion. I couldn’t relate to the tiny, fluttering fetus inside me. I put it down to the fact that it had been quite a shock and we needed to get our heads round it still.
A month later and I was fed up. Fed up of the fake smile and nod, fed up of crying, of feeling guilty and most of all, fed up of not being me. I came home from work, sat on the kitchen floor and sobbed. I resolved to go to the GP the next day to book an abortion. I couldn’t cope with the emptiness and numbness inside me any longer. I hated my life and my situation and this was the only way I could see out – I never felt like ending my own life.
Sitting on the laminate floor, I cried and text my best friend. Perhaps if I knew there was an end to this ‘phase’ I could cope. If she said she felt like this too, but it went away, I could stick with it. I could be brave. She rang me straight away. Luckily she is a midwife too and recognised that the way I felt wasn’t normal. We agreed I would go and see the doctor the next day, but I would ask for help inside of seeking a way out.
After more sobbing at the doctor, a phone call to a very understanding matron at work and a referral to our perinatal mental health team, I felt a bit more positive. I was going to have a course of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), lots of support and potentially some medication if things didn’t improve. I also had a diagnosis. Antenatal depression.
Around 1 in 10 women experience postnatal depression and we are getting so much better at looking out for it and supporting women in the immediate post partum period, but did you know that the same number of women will suffer from antenatal depression? We assume that in pregnancy women will be suffering from the physical symptoms of pregnancy, but how many of us pay close enough attention to their mental health?
If you are worried about a friend, loved one, colleague or patient, please, please speak to them. After 3 months of therapy and almost a year of medication, I am now the mother of a beautiful, hilarious, vibrant little girl and when I think of what could have been I am so thankful for good friends and great support.’
For more information and support please check out PANDAS Pre and Postnatal Depression Advice and Support.