How to Spot the Signs of Depression During Pregnancy
Pregnancy and motherhood is often viewed as some of the happiest moments of a woman’s life. Yet, an estimated 1 in 10 women in Singapore is affected by clinical depression during pregnancy. Depression during pregnancy (also known as antenatal depression) often increases the chances of a woman having postnatal depression — about half of the women who experience depression during pregnancy go on to have post-partum depression (depression after giving birth).
The Early Signs
It’s easy to dismiss the early symptoms of antenatal depression because often, the first signs are similar to typical pregnancy symptoms including: changes in appetite, tiredness, sleeping too little or too much, and forgetfulness.
So just when should alarm bells be sounding? Be alert to the following Alarm bells which may signal depression during pregnancy:
- Irritability and agitation
- Panic attacks
- Excessive crying
- A loss of interest in activities that are normally enjoyed
- Inability to concentrate
- Excessive self-blame
- Feeling that life is meaningless or overwhelming
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Extreme fatigue that seems never-ending
Women who are suffering from any 2 or 3 of the above mentioned symptoms for 2 weeks or more are likely to be suffering from antenatal depression and should seek help. Tell your doctor, who can help arrange a counselling session with a trained therapist.
It’s important for women to not blame themselves if they feel depressed while pregnant,” says Dr TC Tan, obstetrican and gynaecologist, “Postnatal blues could be just hormonal. Rest assured, it will usually go away after delivery. But for depression, best to seek medical help early and treatment can be rendered,”
Treating Depression During Pregnancy
The most important first step is to seek medical help and discuss your symptoms and struggles with your healthcare provider. A study conducted in Singapore found that using a combination of counselling and medication helps about 80% of pregnant patients with depression recover within months — if detected early.
Non-drug Treatment Options for Antenatal Depression
- Support groups
- Gathering help/support from close family members
Drug Treatment Options for Antenatal Depression
Depending on the severity of the depression and the woman’s mental health history, antidepressants may be considered, if other methods tried do not work. However, it is recommended that antidepressants be tailed off in the last few weeks of pregnancy as they may affect the newborn baby. Use the medication as directed by your doctor.
Can a Pregnant Woman Prevent Depression During Pregnancy?
Since depression is a biochemical reaction, a person may not be able to avoid it altogether if she is prone to it. However, watching your emotional health and taking care of yourself during your pregnancy can help lift your spirits and ease the symptoms. Some of these include:
- Managing stress: take care of your well-being, take breaks so you get enough rest, don’t try to pack too many things into one day, exercise moderately, eat a healthy, balanced diet and speak with your partner about dividing up household chores
- Bond with your partner: spend quality time with your other half and nurture your relationship during your pregnancy journey. You can even consider a babymoon in your second trimester to connect before baby’s arrival
- Have a support network: talk about your feelings, concerns and challenges with close friends and family members