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1 in 5 women face antenatal depression during pregnancy, but this is often ignored as ‘mood swings’. After all, shouldn’t a pregnant woman be happy anyway?
Postpartum depression is a clinical depression which is widely discussed and talked about. However, its precedent, antenatal depression (depression during the 9 months of pregnancy) is a topic which is still chosen to be ignored by society. In most cases this is just labelled as severe mood swings during pregnancy. Since the choice of child safe drugs in pregnancy is extremely limited, this seems to be another reason as to why this ailment has been ignored and hushed under the carpet.
If you are pregnant and are feeling sad, constantly hopeless, facing severe insomnia, extremely fatigued or suicidal you might be a victim of antenatal depression. Statistics show that 7 to 20% of pregnant woman face antenatal depression, and this condition if not treated, a lot of them go on to developing postpartum depression.
I remember being a victim of antenatal depression during my pregnancy 9 years back. Having faced two miscarriages before my precious pregnancy, I just remember being a bunch of nerves during those nine months. To top it all, innumerable complications, bleeding due to placenta previa, and gestational diabetes made my anxiety sky rocket.
Somewhere around the 18th week of my pregnancy, I just stopped sleeping. At first, my family attributed this to my lack of activity due to bed rest on a stressful pregnancy. Day after day, I felt myself deteriorating and could not understand what was going wrong with me. I cried the whole day and night and prayed that I could sleep at night, but I could not even get a wink of sleep. After a couple of weeks of severe insomnia, my anxiety peaked and I also faced mild hallucinations. My family could not understand the issue, and my mother and mother-in-law only blamed me that I was being over-sensitive and if I cry so much it would only impact the baby’s health and spirits.
Yes, I wanted my baby to be happy and healthy like all mothers, but what this was not something I was doing on purpose. I just could not find joy in absolutely anything in life and all I wanted was a good night’s sleep.
Depression as an ailment is difficult for the patient’s families to accept. It is somewhere still associated with shame and a topic which is taboo. I was lucky that my father understood what I was going through and took me to a psychologist at Apollo Hospital in Delhi.
I was apprehensive about my first visit as was not sure what was coming my way there, as somewhere within I myself had a problem in accepting that I was depressed! My first session with the therapist was nothing extraordinary to speak of and to start with I could not understand how this was going to help me in any way. She did tell me that severe fluctuations in hormones and a changed diet devoid of sugar and salt can alter the chemicals in the brain and make you feel the way you are.
Talking to a person who is not connected with your life can be a relief, and I remember walking out of her clinic a little more relaxed. Finally, that night I slept for eight hours at a stretch almost after ten weeks. Subsequently, I started looking forward to my sessions with the psychologist and started getting better day by day. I feel every session opened up a new perspective and I was able to share some of my fears and apprehensions which existed in my self conscious mind and I myself was not aware of them.
Seeing one of my friends facing a similar battle with her family, made me share my story today which is nine years old. Antenatal depression can be tackled by various forms of treatment which include talk therapy, exercises, meditation and child safe drugs as well.
Depression in any form, antenatal, postpartum, or any other form is an ailment which we should not be ashamed for and must seek help. I was lucky that I was diagnosed in time, did not need to take drugs and delivered a healthy and happy baby.
Do not ignore your mental health, it is as important as your physical well-being. Depression can be a long drawn battle – take help, don’t fight this battle alone!
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