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Prenatal Depression and Anxiety
A deeper explanation of the mental health issues that are actually more common during pregnancy.
September 18, 2020
It seems like everyone and their mother has heard of postpartum depression. Even if we haven’t actually had or seen it, most of us are glancingly familiar with the idea of a mother whose mental health is thrown completely off kilter following the birth of a new child. It isn’t surprising that conditions like postpartum anxiety and postpartum OCD are also prevalent. But what isn’t focused on nearly as much as it should be is the anxiety and depression that affects people prenatally - during their pregnancy, long before the condition would count as “postpartum.”
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the mental health issues faced by a startlingly high number of pregnant people, and why you may only now be hearing about this. We will discuss:
Although many women know to look out for postpartum disorders, they may be unfamiliar with the fact that anxiety, anger, and irritability experienced during pregnancy may also be indicative of mental health. In many cases, had these symptoms been addressed, the depression that developed postpartum might have been addressed sooner; somewhere between 50 and 80 percent of people with postpartum depression also experienced depression during their pregnancy. In fact, people are about twice as likely to experience prenatal depression and anxiety than they are to experience postpartum depression and anxiety.
Why It Doesn’t Get Diagnosed
Uncertainty, Ignorance, and Assurances
If Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are so common, then why don’t more people know about them and report their symptoms? The answer effectively comes down to two different categories: either people don’t really know what’s going on, or they don’t really think it’s a problem. In the first case, a pregnant person may not recognize themselves in a list or symptoms or may not be aware to look out for prenatal conditions. In the second, the person themselves or those around them may have convinced them that what they are experiencing can be chalked up to gloominess and hormones, and that they’ll start feeling better if they just wait it out.
In order to understand the issue of prenatal depression and anxiety, it’s important to recognize what depression and anxiety look like. While it might look like the classic media representations - moodiness, pervasive melancholy, excessive fretting, even suicidal feelings - actual mood disorders are more likely to look a little different than what one might expect.
Sleep issues such as insomnia and restless or unsatisfying sleep
Shaking or trembling
How to Help
Spread the Word
Despite being a pervasive problem, prenatal mental health issues are reported far less often than postpartum disorders. You can help by spreading the word. Help by getting yourself and your loved ones educated about postpartum and perinatal/prenatal mental health issues, and making that information more widespread so that it is accessible to the people who need it. And remember: never be afraid to seek help, even if you don’t think your problems are the end of the world.
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