We know that women are at a higher risk of depression during pregnancy and after they have had a child

  • Prenatal/Antenatal depression is experienced before childbirth, in early pregnancy.
  • Postnatal/Postpartum is depression experienced after childbirth.

Conflicting or complicated emotions during pregnancy and after the birth are a common experience for parents, but having these feelings can be very isolating. If you or your partner is pregnant or have had a baby and are feeling low and depressed, try not to worry.

One in every ten women will experience feeling depressed at some point in pregnancy (The PANDAS Foundation for Pre and Postnatal Depression). Similarly, one in ten dads will experience post-natal depression (the Babycentre). There are many people out there who can understand these emotions, who will not judge you for having them and who can support you.

Difficult emotions and symptoms involved in this type of depression can include confusion, guilt, anger, helplessness, sadness, hopelessness, loss, anxiety and low energy.

Perhaps you're experiencing sleep problems regardless of whether your baby sleeps soundly. Experiences during the pregnancy and having a child can trigger difficult memories of a parent’s own childhood and worries about their ability to cope. Perhaps you experience negative thoughts such as ‘I’m not a good mother/father’, worry about your baby’s health, or worry about being left alone with your baby. Perhaps you experience overwhelming feelings of panic or unsettling thoughts about harming your baby and feel you can’t tell anyone. Difficulties in relationships can also occur, and sometimes worries about death.

Reasons for antenatal and postnatal depression 

Reasons can be complicated and include:

  • Physical effects of pregnancy/having a child: For mothers many physical changes occur during and after birth. For both parents, the physical effects of attending to the needs of a child can be demanding.
  • Previous miscarriage or stillbirth: If you have been affected by a miscarriage or stillbirth in the past, anxiety and fears about the health of your baby (as well as memories and feelings from past loss and grief) are likely.
  • Past or current mental health issues: The social, emotional and physical demands of pregnancy and parenting (especially within the first year after birth), are more likely to trigger past problems in mental health or exacerbate existing mental health conditions.
  • Social: Some parents find they have to juggle a range of pressures, including a lack of support from family and friends, changes to friendships, financial difficulties and juggling education, work or other commitments.

Less common reasons for depression following pregnancy

  • Postpartum psychosis: A severe mental illness developed after giving birth. Symptoms include hallucinations and delusional thinking.

Ways to take care of your mental health during pregnancy

  • Practice self-care: Try to take a moment to pause and think about the positive – the times where you have done well and life has been well. Take time to relax, eat well, exercise and meet with friends. Sleep whenever you can.
  • Join a parents support group: Your health visitor can help you locate a range of expectant parent and mother/father/baby support groups in your local area.
  • Remind yourself that you’re human: There is no such thing as a perfect person or the perfect mother. Everyone has ‘off-days’. Talk to someone you trust and try not to compare yourself with others.
  • Household chores can wait: It can be hard keeping up with the washing, cleaning, grocery shopping and cooking. Find a schedule for chores that doesn’t compromise on time to relax. If a friend calls round, ask for help with the chores – most friends like to feel they can be useful!
  • Talking therapy: If your problem is getting in the way of your life, consider meeting with someone trained to help – this might include your midwife, health visitor, GP and/or having talking therapy.           

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