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Dr Sarah Temple
A family doctor with more than 20 years experience working with children in both General Practice and Mental Health Services. Trained to run Emotion Coaching Parenting Courses. She has a special interest in the link between child and parental wellbeing.
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Do I have antenatal depression?

Most of us have heard of postnatal depression (PND) but we're not so familiar with antenatal depression, also known as prenatal depression, which happens during pregnancy. It's actually quite common, with around 1 in 5 women experiencing it in some form or another. If you experience antenatal depression, you are more likely to experience PND after your baby is born, so it's important to seek out help early.
In Short
Lots of people occasionally feel mood changes, tiredness, or anxiety during their pregnancies, owing to the changes in hormones. But if you’re feeling like this most of the time, you may have antenatal, or prenatal depression.

What can I do to alleviate antenatal/ prenatal depression?

The first things to do are the simplest ones. Try to open up and talk to someone about it – a friend, family member or your partner to start with.

Try to look after your health by getting plenty of sleep and rest. Try and prepare healthy meals and additional healthy snacks to keep your energy levels up and your blood sugar levels stable.

It can help to join an antenatal group. Having some company and sharing experiences with other women – at the same stage of pregnancy and with the same anxieties – can really help.

If you were taking antidepressants before getting pregnant, discuss with your doctor or psychiatrist. Don’t just stop taking them without involving your medical team.

You will be more likely to experience antenatal depression if you have suffered from low mood and depressive episodes before. Your environment is a big factor so speak to your midwife and support network if you are living in difficult circumstances to try to increase practical support during your pregnancy.

Illegal drugs and alcohol can increase the risk of antenatal depression too, so speak to your midwife if you feel you need support around drug and alcohol use.

What should I do if I have bad antenatal depression?

If you think your antenatal depression is more serious speak to your midwife about your feelings. Remember this is a really common problem so don’t be embarrassed or worried to ask for help.

Your doctor might suggest you try a depression medication. Don’t start medications on your own since they may not be suitable during pregnancy.

There are support groups in the community for pregnant women suffering from anxiety and depression. Your Midwife or Doctor can connect you with these.

Watch our video from Melissa who is pregnant and had strong feelings of anxiety and depression during her first trimester:

Summary of risk factors

You will be more likely to experience antenatal depression if you have any of the following:

  • A history of depression.
  • Family violence.
  • Lack of support.
  • No partner.
  • Difficulties with your partner.
  • Substance abuse.
  • Anxiety.
Summary of the first steps for treatment
  • Talk to your midwife, family and friends to start with.
  • Eat healthily.
  • Sleep as much as possible.
  • Join an antenatal group – sharing experiences can really help.
  • Take gentle outdoor exercise to get fresh air and natural light.
  • If you were on antidepressant medication before getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about the best options for you in pregnancy. It’s important not to suddenly stop taking medication.
  • See your doctor or midwife if these early steps don’t help – they will know what to do to get you support.
  • Don’t ever be embarrassed to ask your doctor or midwife – they deal with antenatal depression frequently and know what to do.
History of mental illness and implications

If there is a history of mental illness in your family, or you have any concerns how this may affect you or your baby, have a chat with your Doctor or Midwife. Essential Parent’s GP talks about this situation in the video below.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.