Why Antepartum Depression Isn’t Talked About?

Antepartum depression refers to depression that occurs during pregnancy, a lesser known and lesser talked about entity than its counterpart to post-partum depression.

Antepartum depression refers to depression that occurs during pregnancy, a lesser known and lesser talked about entity than its counterpart- post-partum depression.

Why does nobody talk about Antepartum Depression?

How can you talk about something which you believe does not exist? Pregnancy after all, is supposed to be the most joyful period in a woman’s life, is it not?

There would even be those who say that the words ‘pregnancy’ and ‘depression’ totally contradict one another, such that they should not even be in the same sentence together. Well, here is news to non-believers, antepartum depression is not big-foot, it is very much real.

What causes Antepartum Depression?

It is believed to result from a combination of hormonal changes, psychological factors, alteration in eating and sleeping habits along with bodily changes, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Hormonal changes are a big factor

The major hormones that ravage the pregnant body are estrogen, progesterone and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). While estrogen is associated with energy, thereby triggering anxiety, restlessness and irritability, progesterone causes relaxation, too much of which results in exhaustion.

As if the combination of irritability and fatigue are not enough, the third hormone HCG creates perpetual nausea and vomiting during the first trimester.

Bodily changes

With the second trimester bodily changes take predominance, with enlarged and tender breasts, the beginnings of a baby bump and clothes that no longer fit, making her no longer comfortable with her own body.

These changes progress during the third trimester including the larger baby bump, frequent urination, severely disturbed sleep (due to frequent loo trips and not finding a comfortable sleeping position), extreme fatigue and low back pain, to name a few.

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Psychological aspects

These result from the mental impact of the above-mentioned physical factors coupled with anxiety regarding the wellness of the pregnancy at every stage.

The apprehension increases prior to every scan and antenatal visit, especially in those who have had a previous miscarriage or termination. All this worry precipitates insomnia, which aggravates the pre-existing exhaustion.

Then comes her worry about her career, which in many cases takes a beating or a very long break due to pregnancy and childbirth, especially in complicated and high risk ones. The woman often suffers an identity crisis and a fear of the future once she gives up her career, even if it is temporary.

There is, after all, more to her than being a mother. She is an individual with her own dreams and aspirations too.

What to do about it?

For the pregnant woman:

  • Accept and understand that you are not alone in this.
  • There is nothing wrong with you, just because you are not always joyful.
  • Do not feel guilty about your mood swings and irritability.
  • Talk about how you feel frequently with your close circle.
  • Do not hesitate to talk to a therapist if you feel extremely sad and hopeless.
  • Keep up your physical fitness with regular walking and yoga, as per the advice of your treating Obstetrician.
  • Try out meditation and deep breathing to calm your mind.
  • Engage in activities you love outside your work-painting/writing/vlogging/cooking/crafts/singing/playing musical instruments, etc.

For her spouse, family and friends

  • Giver her your unconditional, judgement-free love.
  • Offer physical and emotional support whenever needed.
  • Help her find ways to keep herself occupied.
  • Avoid unsolicited advice, which will irritate and stress her more.

And dear husband, in addition to the above, keep telling her that she looks beautiful no matter what, to allay her fears about her changing body and take her out on romantic dinner dates!

Care and attention to a pregnant person’s needs are a must, empathy and constant consultation with a doctor can help a lot. So if you or someone needs help, please ask for support.

Image source: Shisuka, free and edited on CanvaPro

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Lavnya Krishnamurthy

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