Antenatal Depression Counselling
Coping with Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy
Positive Pregnancy test?
There are many different feelings that can follow the experience of discovering you are pregnant; whether it be a planned or unplanned, whether it will be your first child or not.
The reality is that pregnancy, although for many a joyous occasion, can be for others a very stressful situation and antenatal depression is a very real and very normal issue.
Counselling for Antenatal Depression and the anxiety of birth and beyond helps by looking at the roots of these feelings.
What Is Antenatal Depression?
Many of the feelings are good ones, but some are not, and it can be the case that you become depressed and / or anxious during your pregnancy. These feelings can be compounded by the fact that you may feel pressure to feel only ‘good’ emotions such as ‘happy’, ‘excited’ and at worst ‘nervous’. You may feel unable to say that the reality, for you, is feeling low, numb, terrified or other negative emotions. This is called antenatal depression.
Much is talked and written about regarding post-natal depression but there is little about antenatal depression. This is depression that occurs during and leading up to birth as opposed to after the birth.
It is relatively common and around 10% of women are thought to be affected by antenatal depression. However, if women suffer in silence and feel they cannot do something about it, the chances of having postnatal depression are increased.
What are the causes of Antenatal Depression?
There is no one cause of antenatal depression, it is usually a combination of things, and it will be a unique set of circumstances for each woman. Women who have experienced depression in the past can be more at risk, but Antenatal Depression can also affect those with no previous history. Here is a list of factors that can cause antenatal depression:
- The physiological ‘condition’ of simply being pregnant automatically brings with it hormone changes, which will have a differing effect on each woman. The simple fact of this balance changing can bring about / trigger antenatal depression
- Physical changes to your body – all women’s bodies will change during pregnancy, but the exact changes will vary from woman to woman and the way in which you react to these changes and the impact they have on you will be different for each person
- Your roles and responsibilities will be changing and this can trigger worries, fears and concerns about a shift to your life that you may not have been expecting or prepared for
- Your pregnancy may trigger memories of your past, of the way in which you were parented and fears about being a parent
- You may have relationship problems or issues that feel worse because of being pregnant, or you may be experiencing pregnancy without a partner which brings up different feelings and worries
- You may be worried about money, something that has increased since discovering you are pregnant
- You may have been pregnant before and / or had children before and this pregnancy is triggering worries or concerns based on those previous experiences
This is not an exhaustive list, but are some common triggers as to why antenatal depression can begin. It may be that none of these triggers resonate with you, and that is normal too, antenatal depression does not have to have a ‘reason’ to come about.
How will I know if I have Antenatal Depression?
Felling ‘low’, ‘stressed’, ‘upset’ and unable to cope during your pregnancy is normal . . . especially considering the hormonal changes that are occurring, plus the fact you are coping with the arrival of a child, it is likely you will be feeling a rollercoaster of emotions that you haven’t experienced before!
You may feel overwhelmed with a feeling or unable to cope for a period but that, after a chat either to a partner, friend, or trusted person, you feel better and these low or stressful days do not feel permanent.
They come and go and pass without staying too long.
However, if feeling overwhelmed with emotion and / or feeling unable to cope lasts, and does not go away, you may be experiencing antenatal depression.
These are some common symptoms to look for during pregnancy:
- Feeling Tearful – crying more is normal due to the change in hormones your body is experiencing. However, if you find that you are crying excessively or are consistently tearful and it does not pass than this could be a sign of antenatal depression
- Feeling numbness / emptiness – It may be that due to the overwhelming nature and feelings the pregnancy has created, your mind has shut down and you feel detached, a sense of emptiness or a ‘numb’ and separate feeling to what is going on around you
- Anxiety – a certain level of anxiety is normal . . . This anxiety may centre on the birth, or about the health of your child, or what it will be like to be a parent. However, if this begins to be an overwhelming anxiety or blocks any happiness then it is something to look at. For example, you may find that you are having panic attacks, that you consistently feel on edge even though there is nothing specific to feel on edge about, you may not be able to concentrate on any one thing or avoid being with or around people altogether
- Insomnia – again, a level of insomnia is normal , especially during the later stages when the baby is larger and moves around / wakes you up during the night. However, if you find it is a racing mind that is keeping you wake, this is different and a sign that it is your thoughts and feelings that are causing the insomnia rather than the baby itself
What can often then make these symptoms worse is a sense of GUILT or SHAME that you are experiencing some or all of these things. There are many expectations placed on a woman to feel a certain way during pregnancy and to feel a certain way about becoming a mother. If we find we’re not feeling these ‘expected’ feelings, it can lead to guilt and shame about having negative thoughts and feelings or a sense there is something ‘wrong’ with you or you are ‘bad’ or not normal in some way.
It is important to know that there is nothing to feel guilt or shame about. Experiencing depression and anxiety either for the first time you are pregnant or again after you have already had one or more children is not abnormal and it is not wrong. It is an overwhelming experience and that feeling of overwhelm can bring good and bad feelings with it.
It would be more abnormal to feel normal!
How can counselling for antenatal depression and anxiety help during pregnancy?
As you may be suffering not only depression and or anxiety, but also shame or guilt about feeling these emotions, it is understandable to want to ‘bury your head in the sand’ and ignore these feelings, hoping that they will go away.
The reality is that the more you do this the more these emotions and responses are likely to intensify and to feel worse.
Counselling for antenatal depression is a space where you can explore what you have been feeling. This exploration takes place away from partners, friends, family and anyone else you feel may worry about being judged by. It is a confidential space where you can look at what you have been experiencing and feeling away from any worry about what someone may think is ‘normal or not’.
The sooner you do this, the sooner you can begin to experience your pregnancy differently. Counselling can provide the space, not only to vent but also to begin to understand the reason why you are feeling the way that you are.
Counselling for antenatal depression can also provide tips and tools around pregnancy, for example; how to look after yourself, relaxation techniques and how to cope practically with anxiety and depression.
Counselling for Partners of Someone who is Pregnant
Throughout a pregnancy, the focus is often on the woman who is pregnant. However, if you are the partner, it is very likely that, although you are not experiencing the physical changes and impact of a pregnancy, you will still be experiencing many of the fears and concerns that can exist around it.
You may be a man with a female partner, a woman with a female partner, a gay couple who are using a surrogate, married, not married or not together at all. There are a variety of forms your partnership can take, the important factor is that as the partner of a pregnant woman, you may well be experiencing a variety of concerns about the pregnancy. For example:
- What kind of parent will I be? What if I’m not a ‘good’ parent?
- What if something goes wrong during the birth?
- I’m worried I don’t feel the same way about having a baby as my partner does
- The pregnancy is changing our relationship, is it okay I have the feelings I have about that?
- I’m struggling to cope with a pregnant partner as well as everything else
- I’m worried about money
- Family issues have increased / become worse since the pregnancy
- I miss the way my partner was before the pregnancy, what if our relationship is never the same again? What will our relationship be like when the child arrives?
Alongside these and other issues, you are also learning to cope with a partner who is pregnant. It may be that your partner has never been pregnant, or this may not be your first experience of pregnancy.
Either way, each pregnancy is different and consequently your partner may be reacting in a way that is new and unexpected. You may be navigating a new transition where you adjust to the impact it is having on your partner, but also on your relationship as a couple.
You may feel guilty for having these feelings, and feel as though all the focus should be on your partner and your feelings are not as important or not relevant. This is not the case; A pregnancy and approaching parenthood affects both individuals in a couple. It will have an impact on you, and it will have an impact on your relationship.
How Can Counselling for the Partners of Pregnant Women Help?
Counselling is a space where you can speak confidentially to an objective individual about the thoughts and feelings that sourround the pregnancy, for you.
It is a safe space, away from your partner and from anyone connected to your life where you can begin to work out what it is you are feeling and where some of those feelings may have come from.
It can help you to prepare for the birth, by exploring any issues that may have arisen for you about becoming a parent.
Counselling can also provide tips and tools for you, as the partner of someone who is pregnant, to look after yourself, as well as your partner, and to look after the changes that are occurring in your relationship if this is relevant.
Counselling for Antenatal Depression and for Partners of Pregnant Women
If you feel you are struggling to cope with the emotions you are feeling around your pregnancy, your impending parenthood or you are worried about your partner who is pregnant take the first step and contact Rachel to talk about Counselling for emotions around pregnancy and the birth of your child.
Some Helpful Articles & Resources on Antenatal Depression
City Pregnancy – Counselling and Psychotherapy in London
This is a specialist service for men, women and couples to discuss their problems with pregnancy, pregnancy loss and related issues