We all know and hear a lot about postnatal depression, but what about depression and anxiety during pregnancy?
Over the past two decades, most research on mothers’ mental health has focused on the time after childbirth. Only recently has attention turned to the issue of maternal mental health during pregnancy.
Our study involving 1500 first-time mothers suggests around one in ten mothers have clinically significant depressive symptoms in the first three months of pregnancy, and a similar proportion have severe anxiety symptoms.
Other studies measuring symptoms at later stages of pregnancy, or over a number of time points, indicate even higher proportions of women have clinically significant depressive and/or anxiety symptoms during pregnancy.
Women who have depressive symptoms during pregnancy are also much more likely to have anxiety or depression after childbirth. Although it’s important to point out not all women who have these symptoms during pregnancy go on to have mental health problems after their baby is born.
So what is antenatal depression?
Pregnancy can be an unsettling time for women and men. It’s common for women to feel overwhelmed by the extreme fatigue, and physical and emotional changes associated with pregnancy.
There are many ways symptoms of depression and anxiety can manifest. Some women have difficulty making decisions or managing everyday tasks. Others become extremely anxious and may have panic attacks. Others feel numb and may not want to see family or friends.
All pregnancies are a “journey into the unknown”. Most women and men will experience some anxiety as a normal part of getting ready to welcome a new baby. While some anxiety is normal, debilitating anxiety is not.