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Depression and anxiety during pregnancy are real and nothing to be ashamed of. Read on to learn more.
Bringing a child into the world brings up a whole mess of emotions––and that’s normal. Prenatal depression and prenatal anxiety are extremely common, but they’re not talked about enough. To help shed some light on these very real conditions, we asked Licensed Clinical Social Worker Jenny Shully and Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor Amanda Gordon, the founders of The Haven Group, to share their knowledge with our readers.
What are prenatal depression and anxiety?
Prenatal depression is any depressive episode or lasting depressive symptoms that begin during pregnancy and are solely related to pregnancy. Similarly, anxiety that is newly experienced during pregnancy can be considered prenatal anxiety. Addressing your mental health and well-being early on in pregnancy can provide so much relief and help prevent postpartum depression and anxiety. The sooner you address the symptoms, the easier it will be for you (and your support system) to feel yourself again!
Signs and Symptoms
Prenatal depression and anxiety are often confused with the hormonal shifts associated with pregnancy, so it’s best to seek out therapeutic support. Because anxiety and depression can be so intertwined with one another, it can be a bit confusing to tease out what’s going on. Prenatal depression and anxiety can present in many different ways, including:
- Worry pregnancy is a mistake
- Feeling sad/crying more than usual
- Changes in sleeping and/or eating patterns
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Challenges around accepting life changes
- Lack of interest in preparing for labor, delivery, and newborn life
- Excessive anxiety about being a good mother
- Strong fear about the baby’s well-being
- Trouble making decisions
- Irrational fears about spouse’s well-being
- Suicidal thoughts
If you think you have prenatal depression or anxiety
Unfortunately, there is still a considerable stigma attached to mental health, and especially for those who are pregnant. There is an expectation that pregnancy should be this happy, carefree time, and that is just not the case for so many women. It’s a huge life change! Having ambivalent feelings about pregnancy is super common, and there’s no reason to feel ashamed.
If you think you have prenatal depression or anxiety, talk to a doctor. They will have a network of counselors or support groups to connect you with. Don’t feel embarrassed about talking to a doctor; they’re there to support you!
Try to find a therapist who specializes in prenatal mood disorders. They’ll be best equipped to support you and can work with you to identify medications that are considered safe for pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. There is absolutely zero shame in needing additional support in the form of medication. Remember: It’s not forever; it’s just extra help now!
There are also a variety of support groups, and some of the most basic prenatal classes can be helpful, as they offer a sense of community and remind us all that we’re not alone! Some top resources include:
- BabyCenter: “Depression During Pregnancy”
- American Pregnancy Association: “Depression In Pregnancy”
- Mother to Baby: “Depression Fact Sheet”
- Psychology Today: “Pregnant Women Need Screening for Anxiety and Depression”
If you think someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, talk to them honestly and gently about what you’ve observed. Express your concern for their well-being—don’t focus on the baby or their abilities as a mother––and encourage them to reach out to their doctor.
The Haven Group
Based in Chicago, The Haven Group offers a range of support for family members from the early stages of family planning through the transitions into new roles and dynamics. They aim to provide comprehensive care that goes beyond the range of a typical mental health professional. As therapists and former birth and postpartum doulas, their clinicians have unique perspectives on the challenges that women and their families can face in the prenatal and postpartum periods. They offer counseling services and strive to assist individuals and families in identifying and managing family issues that may be challenging. For more information, please contact Jenny and Amanda at firstname.lastname@example.org.