What to Do When Pregnancy ISN’T a Happy Time

Pregnant women often hear numerous well-wishes during their pregnancy. It’s a common belief that pregnancy “should” be a happy time for women. As such, we rarely recognize or discuss the less joyful emotions that a woman may be experiencing during this time. Although we hear about postpartum depression, we rarely discuss prenatal depression.

The reality is, up to 70% of women experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy and 10-15% of pregnant women meet the diagnostic criteria of clinical depression. These symptoms can affect any woman, regardless of whether her pregnancy was planned or unplanned.

Early detection is key to working towards an emotionally healthy pregnancy and prevention of postpartum depression. Prenatal depression is one of the main risk factors of postpartum depression, and it needs to be detected early in order to help provide the best beginnings for the mother and her baby. If you believe that you may be experiencing prenatal depression, here are some things you should do:

  • Speak to your doctor or midwife about your symptoms. Your health care professional should be aware of both your physical and emotional symptoms during your pregnancy.
  • Seek out your support network. Emotional support during pregnancy can be helpful in making this important life transition. Establish this support network early so that you will have continued support throughout your pregnancy and during the postpartum time.
  • Include your partner. Discuss your feelings with your partner and how he can help you during this time. As a couple, you will also need to consider how you will deal with the transition into parenthood and discuss how you may recognize postpartum depression if it occurs.
  • Do internal work. The transition to motherhood is a significant shift in identity for a woman. Even if you already have children, it is important to think about how this new life will change your current situation. Additionally, looking back at your past attachments can be helpful in preparing you for the new attachment you will be making with your baby.
  • Seek professional help. It is helpful to do internal work in relationship to others. It is often difficult to recognize our own challenges. Working with one other individual or in a group gives you an opportunity to explore your feelings in a safe and helpful environment.

Prenatal depression is difficult to diagnose.

The signs of prenatal depression may mimic the symptoms many women experience during pregnancy, including low energy, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, changes in eating habits, anxiety, irritability, and numerous somatic complaints. Women and their doctors or midwives may be less aware of these signs, simply because they can be a part of normal pregnancy. In addition, many women expect to be happy during their pregnancy and may deny any depressive symptoms they experience.

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