Depression and Anxiety During Pregnancy
Claudia stared at herself in the mirror. The face staring back was not her own. Halfway into her pregnancy, Claudia was beginning to feel the overwhelming thoughts and fears of her upcoming birthing experience. Forty weeks seemed like forever away, 20 weeks ago. Now, here she was with 20 more weeks to go, and she was NOT ready! As the thoughts continued to run through her head…”Are YOU even capable?” “How are you going to do this?” “You know it’s going to be painful, right?” Claudia stood in her bathroom. The room suddenly appeared to get darker, as it slowly enclosed around her. Claudia realized her breathing had become shallow and quick. “Am I experiencing depression and anxiety during my pregnancy?” She questioned. Whatever she was experiencing, Claudia was not a fan and wanted this to be the last time.
What is Depression and Anxiety?
Depression is a common serious medical illness that negatively impacts the way one feels, thinks, functions, and acts. Depression does not discriminate. It can affect and impact anyone, no matter race, social status, sex, nationality, religion, or age. Anxiety is described as the body’s natural response to stress. This can manifest as fear, apprehension, or in a paralysis form. Generally anxiety can come and go, and typically does not interfere with day-to-day life. Excessive anxiety or anxiety lasting more than 6 months can be diagnosed as an anxiety disorder. These instances are stand-alone. Yet for many, if one is present the other may be underlining.
How is it Different from Postpartum Depression
The difference between prenatal depression and anxiety and postpartum depression is the time-frame. Prenatal (peripartum) means before baby, and postpartum (postnatal) means after baby. While both of these diagnoses are stand alone, there may be a higher instance of either if one is (or has been) predisposed to experiencing depression. Signs and symptoms of prenatal depression and postpartum depression can manifest similarly.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety During Pregnancy
It goes without saying that there are signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy that surface visibly and emotionally that can help loved ones, friends, family, colleagues, peers, and providers to hint that something is going on. Other signs are often kept internal. Some signs and symptoms that can be onsets or instances of depression and anxiety are:
- Thoughts of hurting self
- Decrease in appetite (excessive increase in appetite)
- Inability to sleep (no matter how fatigued one is)
- Irritability or irksome
- Trouble breathing or hyperventilation
- Feeling sad, worthless, guilty
- Increased crying
- Detachment from pregnancy/baby
- to name a few…
When to Talk to Your Provider
It’s always a good thing to keep a flowing and honest relationship with your provider. Therefore the moment you are feeling “off”, down, low, or many other different adjectives that describe the way we humans can feel; reach out to your provider and let them in. A great provider will allow for healthy conversations surrounding your mental well-being prenatally and in the postpartum. Talk with your provider about your history. Speak with your provider throughout your pregnancy at every appointment. If you feel that you are not being heard, YOU have the right to seek alternative care.
Will the Risk for Depression & Anxiety Increase After Birth
While the risk is always more emmient if one experiences depression and/or anxiety prenatally, that does not automatically qualify one to experience depression and/or anxiety in the postpartum. It is natural to experience mood changes and fatigue while carrying a baby. Knowing the signs and symptoms discussed previously, setting one’s support team, and having the support of a doula are ways that will help combat and identify these elevated risks in the postpartum realm.
Prevention and Treatment of Depression & Anxiety During Pregnancy
How can I prevent depression and anxiety in pregnancy, and what kinds of treatments are available? Prevention is more difficult for some to adhere to; as that is something that would be knowing yourself and your emotional and/or stress triggers. Being able to avoid situations or people that are a root of one’s anxiety or depression, is one way to help prevent onsets of depression and/or anxiety. Support, support, support! Finding and feeling supported by those in your life can combat feelings that overtake. Find YOUR happy place. Turn internally and hone in on what you need, then allow your village provide it.
Treatments for depression and/or anxiety offer various methods. Both depression and anxiety are treatable. Medically, anti-depressants or sedatives are prescribed. The specific brands are best discussed with your provider or therapist for safe medications to consume while pregnant. Psychotherapy is another option for treatment. This comes in the forms of a therapist or psychologist. More natural treatments include: restful periods of sleep, avoiding alcohol or caffeine, developing a healthy diet, fresh air and sunshine, and keeping the body moving with physical activity. Some other holistic options include herbs, oils, and meditations.
Local and Online Resources
“It takes a village”, “You’re never alone”, and “It’s okay not to be okay”. We know it sounds cliché to hear and say, but it’s oh so true! Within the Las Vegas Valley and through the clicks of the keyboard keys, there’s help, support, assistance for you. In-person therapy and support groups are happening in Las Vegas through LV Therapy and Maternal Minds Counseling. Both of these facilities specialize in prenatal and postpartum mental therapies. Check their websites for more information. Both nationally and online, Postpartum Support International (PSI) is a recognized entity that provides 24-hour/7 days a week tele-support. PSI houses toll-free hotlines and has representatives in every state.
The truth is, YOU.ARE.NOT.ALONE! Times may feel dark. They may feel heavy. Things may feel overwhelming. These feelings, thoughts, and emotions are valid. Seeking the right avenues of support and understanding is a big step in healing and breaking through. Prenatal depression and/or anxiety will generally subside with giving birth, however it can last up to a year after birth.
The overwhelming feelings of anxieties surrounding giving birth and single life with a baby began to affect Claudia. She knew she hadn’t been feeling like herself lately. Even with the overpowering support of her circle, she still felt alone and stifled. Claudia picked up her phone and dialed the number she had received from her provider. With a puddle of tears forming in her eyes and a hand over her budding belly; Claudia took a deep breath and accepted the help she sought.