Pre/postnatal depression refers to serious, negative emotional changes that last longer than 2 weeks and stop new or expecting parents from doing things you need or want to do in your daily life. Pre/postnatal depression are more than the emotional changes that one might expect during pregnancy and after birth.
Listed below are some symptoms that one might experience. A formal diagnosis usually requires that these symptoms last more than 2 weeks:
✽ Emotional Changes
- In a low mood most of the time
- Low confidence
- Often feeling worried about one's baby or oneself
- Feeling scared and panicky
- Feeling angry or cranky
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Fearing being alone or going out
- Fearing being alone with the baby
✽ Changes in Thoughts
- Thinking that one is worthless or a failure
- Thinking that the baby would be better off with someone else
- Thinking ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I can’t cope’
- Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Thinking that the baby does not love oneself
✽ Behavioural and Social Changes
- Losing interest in activities they would normally enjoy
- Finding it hard to get moving
- Struggling with everyday tasks
- Withdrawing from close family and friends
- Not taking care of oneself
- Too much/too little sleep
- Changes in appetite
- Low energy levels
Some women are more at risk for depression during and after pregnancy:
- A personal history of depression or another mental illness (largest overall risk factor)
- Family history of depression or another mental illness
- Lack of support from family and friends
- Anxiety about the pregnancy
- Problems with previous pregnancy or birth
- Marriage or money problems
- Stressful life events
- Pregnancy at a young age
- Substance use disorders
- Family violence
Minority, immigrant, and refugee populations are especially at risk, due to the added stress of adjusting to and learning to function in a new environment without as much local family support and with added financial concerns or cultural barriers.
While these risk factors help identify those more likely to develop perinatal depression, anyone can be affected during pregnancy or in the year following childbirth.
There are many treatment options that can help you if you’re experiencing symptoms of prenatal or postnatal depression. Listed below are some treatment options for prenatal and postnatal depression. For many people, medicine used together with psychological therapy can work very well.
✽ Psychological Therapy
Psychological treatments for antenatal and postnatal depression include Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT). These therapies aim to help individuals manage feelings of depression and anxiety.
Doctors sometimes recommend antidepressant medicine for prenatal and postnatal depression. There are many different types of antidepressants, including some that can safely be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Aside from therapy and medication, here are some small tips and strategies that can be implemented during and after pregnancy that may be useful:
✽ Emotional support
Getting emotional support from your partner, family and friends is an important way to cope with prenatal and postnatal depression. Talking to someone who can understand how you’re feeling can help you to manage some of the symptoms.
A birth class, parent group, playgroup or therapy group can be another source of emotional support. At these groups you can meet other people to share your experiences with.
✽ Help at Home
If you’re at home while you’re pregnant or with your new baby, it's good to ask someone you trust to be with you regularly to assist with baby care or any household chores. Help at home gives you a chance to rest, sleep or do something relaxing.
✽ Looking After Yourself
Although looking after a newborn can be all-consuming, it is important to remember yourself as well. Do your best to get regular exercise, eat well, try to manage your stress and get sufficient rest.
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