Image by Mel Alias on Unsplash
Many women expect pregnancy to be one of the happiest times in their life, but for many it can be extremely stressful as their hormones are thrown into chaos. Many of the symptoms that appear in pregnancy ae not dissimilar to those experienced in depression. Most women experience periods of fatigue or insomnia, many have mood swings, and a certain degree of weight gain is considered normal. It’s not hard to see therefore, that pregnancy can easily mask the early signs of depression.
Much is known about post-natal depression or post-partum depression which occurs in women after the birth of their baby, yet it is not uncommon for women to experience depression during their pregnancy. This is known as prenatal depression and is more common than once thought. The umbrella term now used to describe both prenatal and postnatal depression is perinatal depression.
Perinatal depression is usually the result of a number of factors; social, biological and emotional, unique to each woman, that can lead to the development of depressive symptoms. In Australia, it is estimated that between 10 and 20% of women and 3 to 10% of men experience some form of pregnancy related mood disorder.
As the symptoms of depression can be similar to that of pregnancy, it is important for women to listen to their bodies. It is often family and friends that notice these changes in a woman and inspire her to seek help. It’s important to attend to and not dismiss the following symptoms which are often associated with depression during or after pregnancy:
- Recurrent episodes of crying or weeping
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of energy or fatigue
- Feeling more anxious than usual
- Changes in appetite
- No longer finding enjoyment in things you usually find pleasurable
- Not feeling connected to your developing baby
Perinatal depression affects not only the parents but also the baby. Prenatal depression can cause an extended production of the hormone cortisol and this, in turn, may impact the unborn baby contributing to high blood pressure, low birth weight, and damage to the nervous system. Untreated prenatal depression may then develop into post-natal depression. Post-natal depression may prohibit mother-baby bonding which can lead to a series of emotional problems including depression and anxiety later in the baby’s life.
Treatment for perinatal depression is similar to other forms of depression, with success rates generally much higher for perinatal depression. Some 80-90% of pregnant women and new mums are aided by medications, counselling or a combination of the two. If you feel you are suffering from some of the symptoms listed above and have been for some time, it may be worth you calling to make an appointment with our counsellor, Lyn.
Call on 0412 259 227.