This week (4th – 10th September) is Pre and Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. According to The Royal College of Midwives, research indicates that 12 per cent of women will suffer from depression in pregnancy, with one in three of these women going on to develop postnatal depression. The Royal College of Midwives also states that an estimated 50 per cent of cases of anxiety and depression in pregnancy and the postnatal period go undetected. In addition, they assert that approximately 50 per cent of the women in the UK have no access to specialist perinatal mental health services.
Last year the PANDAS Foundation held the first ever Pre and Postnatal Depression Awareness Week. Their aim – to highlight mental illnesses during and after pregnancy. The 2017 campaign is focusing on prenatal mental illness (also known as antenatal depression). PANDAS is keen to publicise the fact that depression, anxiety and OCD mental illnesses are far more common during (and after) pregnancy than people realise.
The PANDAS Foundation is encouraging women who have experienced antenatal depression to share their story to help others feel less alone. The message they are trying to promote is that ‘it’s OK to not be OK.’
The PANDAS Foundation offers support services to those suffering from prenatal and postnatal mental illness, as well as offering support to the families, loved ones and carers of those supporting someone with a prenatal or postnatal mental condition. The Foundation also offers support and guidance to employers.
PANDAS operates largely with the assistance of volunteers and the whole team is working hard to eradicate the stigma surrounding perinatal mental illness.
What are the signs of prenatal depression?
• Chronic anxiety
• Incessant crying
• Lack of energy
• Relationship worries
• Conflict with parents and emotional release about own upbringing
• Fear to seek help
What are the causes of prenatal depression?
• The physical and biological tolls of pregnancy (full bladder sensation, nausea, dizziness, swollen breasts, breathlessness, indigestion, can’t fit into nice clothes, and so on).
• Hormones – during pregnancy oestrogen and progesterone levels are 30-50 times higher. This ideally creates a sense of wellbeing, but in some pregnancies a lack of progesterone can lead to feelings of depression.
• Pregnancy side effects can be extremely debilitating. Extreme morning sickness, iron and zinc deficiencies, and weight gain can all take their toll and have an impact on mental health.
What to do if you suspect you are suffering from prenatal depression?
Speak to your GP or midwife about how you are feeling. Your GP may recommend having counselling and may also investigate possible physiological causes, such as iron deficiency. If you have private health insurance, or maternity health insurance, contact your insurer about the medical care available to you.