There are certain concepts that don’t seem to fit together. Few people associate pregnancy with depression. After all, the former is often accompanied by irrepressible joy, the latter by deep sadness. But almost 10 percent of pregnant women experience this unexpected combination: a pregnancy depression.
Unbridled joy or just emptiness?
While all the people surrounding them are freaking out with joy and happiness over the coming baby, some women do not feel that way. Theoretically, they look forward to their baby, many have anticipated this moment and perhaps also planned to get pregnant. The joy of family members and friends seems limitless. Unfortunately, all this does not matter. What sounds sad is unfortunately not that rare, but hardly anyone talks about it because pregnancy and depression don’t appear to fit together. That’s why the affected pregnant women often feel guilty about having these feelings.
Many women know the typical mood swings that accompany the hormonal changes. Between all the anticipation, gratitude and deep love for the unborn child, fear and sadness are also felt in a constant back and forth. With a pregnancy depression, all of that is a bit different, and yet many initially confuse a serious depression for mood swings.
Pregnancy depression: What are the signs?
The fear of talking about it, coupled with unknowingness of the environment, often lead to a pregnancy depression slowly creeping up and remaining unrecognized in many women. „It’s just my hormones,“ is probably the sentence most commonly used to dismiss every ailment after announcing the pregnancy – both from one’s surroundings or oneself. But an unrecognized and untreated depression can have serious consequences.
How do you know if you are suffering from pregnancy depression?
– The initial mood swings do not switch back and forth between joy and sadness, but sadness and fear dominate your emotional world instead.
– You have little to no appetite despite your pregnancy.
-Dark thoughts and musings determine your day and manage to distract you over and over again.
-You feel listless, powerless and impotent.
-You are always tired, but you can’t manage to get a good night’s sleep.
-You could cry constantly and experience many fears.
Since many of these symptoms are not immediately visible to the outside world, the environment often reacts very late. It is Important that the expectant mom acknowledges that these feelings, along with certain thoughts and fatigue, are not just side effects of pregnancy.
Deep sadness: why during pregnancy?
If pregnancy is a wonderful experience and the beginning of a new life chapter, why is it making some women depressed? The obvious answer, used to justify everything related to pregnancy, does not apply; it’s not just the hormones that are responsible, at least not exclusively.
Nonetheless, some women are in fact more sensitive to the effects on the body and the hormonal changes during pregnancy. But external factors must also be kept in mind. Do you have general fears, for example about the future or your financial situation? Have you ever had depressive episodes before? What are your living conditions like? High levels of stress, a large number of tasks and little support, or feeling overwhelmed can weigh down your mind and spirit.
Women who have had difficulty getting pregnant or have had miscarriages in the past may also become depressed. Fearing for the baby and being cautious of premature relief or rejoicing are common. Even a difficult course of pregnancy that caused worry and stress can lead to a pregnancy depression because you’ve hardly had the opportunity to be happy about what is to come. There are many possible reasons and combinations that could lead to a depression and they should all be considered.
What can you do? Help is necessary
One of the most common fears of expectant mothers once they realize that they might be depressed is, “Can I still be a good mother?” In one word: Yes. Yes, you can! But you should urgently seek help and not downplay your situation. Talk to your doctor and midwife about your observations and feelings. Describe exactly how you are and what is going on in your mind and body right now. Medical tests can provide information about the causes, because depressive feelings can also be triggered by hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid) for example. If that does not help, seek additional professional help from a therapist to discuss therapy together. Only if you allow yourself to be helped, can you prepare well for the birth and take a strong first step into parenting.
Talking about it with people in your environment is also important. Close friends, your family and your partner should know what’s going on, so they can help you and understand you better. After all, nothing hurts more than ignorant comments about your situation, however, people being all ears is not enough. There must also be active help because the time before the birth and right after is challenging and you should be able to concentrate completely on yourself and your baby. The more worry-free, the better. So, ask friends to help you in the household or when shopping. Do not be shy; many people are eager to support you but often don’t know that they can already be of assistance by doing these little things.
Indicators for depression in everyday life
When you realize that your emotional being is changing, also take a look at these details:
1. What is your diet like?
Only a balanced diet ensures that you and your baby are provided with all the necessary nutrients.
2. How is your sleep?
A healthy sleep rhythm is also important for your body and mind to regenerate. Maybe your usual six hours aren’t enough anymore, but rather seven to eight? After all, your body must now also meet the demands of the growing baby.
3. Keep moving!
Even though it is difficult in view of the physical exhaustion: exercise and fresh air help a lot. A walk with a friend or even alone provides plenty of oxygen and stimulates circulation. This lifts your spirits and dispels gloomy thoughts. Maybe you are looking for a sport that is suitable for pregnant women? That way you not only interact with others, but you also do something for yourself. Sports have been proven to reduce anxiety and depression.
4. Catch some rays in the fresh air!
If the to-do list of baby prep seems endless or even appears to be getting longer and longer, a walk in the great outdoors can offer some relief. Going out for a walk not only provides some time to explore different thoughts but also lifts your spirits and stimulates circulation. Contrary to the popular belief, that tasks and distraction help against depression, the potential pressure and stress resulting from these busy activities may actually trigger depression. You don’t have to complete all the tasks on your entire baby to-do list. Take the pressure off and do only what feels good.
5. Seek out support!
A great idea is when family or friends can help with the preparations for the baby or other tasks. This provides relief and proves the most important thing of all: you are not alone.
This article was written by our author Bianca Berlin in cooperation with psychotherapist Magdalena Braun from Berlin.