Perinatal depression is a condition experienced by some pregnant women and new mothers that involves feelings of sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion. It can have an effect on the mother’s mood and physical health, as well as her relationships with those around her.
Common symptoms include feelings of guilt or shame, difficulty concentrating or focusing, changes in appetite, low energy levels, and a lack of interest in activities. Treatment for perinatal depression usually includes psychotherapy and medications such as antidepressants.
It affects approximately 15% of pregnant women and new mothers.
Symptoms of perinatal depression
- Feeling sad or hopeless for extended periods
- Appearing irritable or angry more frequently
- Experiencing profound exhaustion
- Having difficulty doing everyday tasks, even those that used to be enjoyable
- Not enjoying any activities, including time spent with family and friends
- Feeling anxious about parenting a newborn
- Experiencing guilt or shame about being pregnant or becoming a parent
- Having difficulty concentrating, focusing, or remembering things
- Changes in eating habits such as overeating or not wanting to eat at all
- Withdrawing socially from family and friends.
Pregnant women who are experiencing this type of depression often feel ashamed. Expecting a child is ‘supposed’ to be a joyful experience, so they worry that their emotions are unnatural. Additionally, many women do not want to take medication during pregnancy, so they don’t seek help.
How can I prevent getting it?
There are several things that you can do to prevent perinatal depression.
Get plenty of rest: Make sure to prioritize sleep. Aim for 8 or more hours every night and nap during the day when possible.
Exercise regularly: Engage in physical activity, like walking or yoga, that is safe for pregnant women.
Stay connected: Spend time with family and friends who can offer social support. Maintain relationships with people outside of your immediate family unit as they may be helpful if you have any difficulties.
Reach out for help: Connect with healthcare providers, counselors, and mental health professionals if you are feeling overwhelmed or struggling with parenting a newborn.
Take time for yourself: Despite the demands of being a new parent, it is important to take time for yourself to do something that brings you joy. Read a book, go to a movie, take a leisurely walk or jog – make sure to schedule some alone time whenever possible.
Practise self-care: Eat healthy meals that are nutrient dense and rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Avoid stress as much as possible by taking breaks throughout the day and seeking support from those around you if needed.
I think I might have perinatal depression. What should I do?
Seek help: Reach out to your healthcare provider, counselor, or mental health professional for support. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, they may recommend a range of therapeutic options such as cognitive behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, family therapy, or medication management.
Talk it out: Express your feelings and concerns to family and friends in a safe environment. Having an understanding and supportive support system can help make a huge difference in navigating the challenges of perinatal depression. Opening up about your experience can be difficult but it is an important way to remind yourself that you are not alone.
Change unhealthy habits: Eating healthy food, exercising regularly and getting plenty of sleep can help to combat the effects of depression. Additionally, seek out activity that brings you joy and allows you to take time for yourself.
Avoid self-medicating with drugs or alcohol – these substances can worsen symptoms, increase risk of postnatal depression and have long-term health consequences. Try to set realistic goals for yourself and keep a positive outlook on life.
Take a break: Spend some time away from parenting duties so you can recharge and relax. Ask for help from family and friends if possible, or find a reliable childcare provider. Consider joining a support group or connecting with other parents who are going through similar experiences. Taking regular breaks will also allow you to take better care of your mental health, allowing you to be the best version of yourself for your child.
Practicing gratitude and being mindful of your thoughts can help to keep your outlook positive. Taking simple steps such as planning for the future, challenging negative self-talk, and rewarding yourself for small successes can also help you stay focused on the bright side.
If you are struggling with perinatal depression, please take steps to manage your symptoms and make sure you are taking care of yourself.
Perinatal depression is a serious medical condition that can have long-term consequences for both mother and baby. It is important to recognize the signs and symptoms early, reach out for help, and develop strategies such as exercise, healthy eating, and connecting with supportive family or friends to combat its effects. With the right resources and support, perinatal depression can be managed effectively.