Mental health and prenatal depression

What is prenatal depression and what should I do if I think I have it?

Dealing with prenatal depression

Finding out you are pregnant is usually an amazing and joyous event, but for some mums it can be totally overwhelming, and instead of being a happy and carefree time, it can feel the opposite.

At a glance

  • It is a recognised condition
  • Talk through your feelings
  • It is a challenging time but you can get through it

Prenatal depression is a recognised condition, and if you are feeling unhappy or down during your pregnancy, no matter what stage you are at, it is paramount that you relay your worries to your midwife or GP, as they will be able to assess you and decide if medication or counselling could be the way forward.

It could be a sign of prenatal depression if you feel sad a lot of the time for weeks at a time during your pregnancy. Antenatal depression can vary from mild to severe and can affect women in different ways. Pregnancy can be an emotional experience and it can be difficult at times to know if feelings are manageable or if they are a sign of something more serious.

There's nothing to feel guilty about

You might feel guilty when telling people how you are feeling – fearful they might question how you could be low during such a happy time, but thanks to all those surging hormones, it really isn't anything you have any control over, or caused by anything you are doing wrong. It certainly does not mean that you do not want to be pregnant, or that you will not be a fabulous mum when your baby arrives – it just means that right now, you are not feeling so great and do remember that depression is a mental health condition and not a sign of weakness.

Talk to friends or family

On days you are feeling down, you might find it helpful to talk through your feelings with a friend or seek support from other pregnant mums. Do talk to your midwife or GP about how you're feeling. Organisations like Mind and the Samaritans could also be helpful if you need someone to talk to one to one. 

If you are already taking medication for depression it is important that you do not stop unless your midwife or GP advises you to do so. They can talk you through the benefits of continuing with your particular drugs throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding, and also highlight any potential risks.

Try and keep in mind, that as amazing as pregnancy is, the reality is that not everyone sails through it in a joy filled, soft-focus haze – for some women it is a difficult and emotionally challenging time – but one you will get through with the right support and advice.

What to look out for

If you experience any of the following, it is worth mentioning it to your midwife, GP or health visitor, who can talk with you and help you find suitable ways of coping. If it is easier to talk to a partner, friend or relative first then do so and ask for their help in speaking to your health professional.

  • Constant sadness, crying more than usual
  • Not being able to sleep
  • Feeling overwhelmed by everyday things that haven’t bothered you before
  • Feeling irritable, more argumentative
  • Lack of concentration 
  • Changes to your appetite
  • Feeling very anxious or afraid
  • A lack of interest in general things
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Intrusive thoughts
  • Thoughts of harming yourself (if you have thoughts of harming yourself you must tell someone)

Make sure your doctor understands what the problem is, so that you get the most appropriate help. For example if your relationship with your partner is causing you stress, then the help should be directed at this. If the problem is more generalised anxiety or depression, then professional counselling may help.

At a glance

  • It is a recognised condition
  • Talk through your feelings
  • It is a challenging time but you can get through it
Talking to my friends and family made me feel like a huge weight was lifted

Mental health and prenatal depression