Who’s Minding Mammy? Antenatal Depression

Jinga Life  -pregnant-depression1.jpg

By Jinga Mom

Like most of life’s major events, they never quite go to plan. My partner didn’t arrive into Copper Face Jack’s on a white horse with his hair billowing in the breeze but we still managed to find each other through a multi-coloured sea of GAA jerseys and somehow end up together. So I don’t know why I bought into the ‘Storks and Booties’ version of having a baby. When pregnancy doesn’t follow the ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ rom-com version, us ladies tend to keep our mouths shut because if others felt this way, surely we’d have heard about it, right? Wrong.

Pregnant women are supposed to be blissfully happy, and catch them on a good day/minute/ second they most likely are but when you factor in the aftershocks of a past miscarriage, fertility treatment, a previous difficult birth or an unplanned pregnancy, not to mention all the other stuff life can throw at you, it’s a minor miracle they manage to wobble around on a good day radiating like a glo-worm. Until recently doctors didn’t even think a woman could get depressed during pregnancy but they now know that the rapid increase in hormone levels can disrupt brain chemistry and sometimes lead to depression.

Jinga Life  -pregnant-depression2.jpg

Back in 2016, researchers at Trinity College Dublin and the Irish Obstetrics Services shared the findings of their ‘Well Before Birth’ study.  It analysed 5,000 women, attending six maternity hospitals across Ireland and found that 16% were at a ‘probable risk’ of developing depression. It was highest in women from lower socio-economic groups, younger women (particularly girls under 18 years of age) and for those who had had a greater number of pregnancies and births. Ireland has one of the highest birth rates in Europe, averaging around 65,000 a year, meaning roughly 10,000 pregnant women could be experiencing depression right now and are suffering in silence.  

Warning signs include:

  • A sense that nothing is enjoyable or fun anymore.
  • Feeling blue, sad or empty for most of the day.
  • Finding it hard to concentrate.
  • Extreme irritability, agitation or excessive crying.
  • Trouble sleeping or sleeping all the time.
  • A constant desire to eat or not wanting to eat at all.
  • Inappropriate guilt or feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness.

Eh... so far so pregnant, right? The average, hormone-raging female, could rip through all of the above in an afternoon which is why depression can be so hard to diagnose. But experts warn, if you’re feeling three or more of the above symptoms for more than two weeks, you need to talk with your doctor or midwife to discuss treatment options. A good, general guideline is to discuss anything which makes everyday life difficult, a few sad or angry moods are perfectly normal, feeling that you can hardly get out of bed is not. If you’ve experienced depression or anxiety in the past, there is a chance the pregnancy may trigger or intensify a previous condition - being aware of this is half the battle, since many women find themselves shocked and discouraged by a recurrence of an issue they thought they had beaten long ago. If you find yourself thinking in a manner which is out of character or thoughts of suicide enter your mind, seek medical attention immediately.

Irish Mammy’s have a fierce bad habit of not asking for help but I’m going to ask you to shake off those shame shackles right now Jingas, and if you’re finding pregnancy is not all it’s cracked up to be, tell someone, especially your health care provider.  Don’t let depression come between you and your baby. Treatment is available and it works. With a little help you’ll be back on track and rocking your bump like Beyonce. From one Jinga Mom to another, mind yourself x.