Depression during pregnancy occurs when a pregnant woman feels sad all the time for weeks or months during the pregnancy. It is otherwise called Antenatal depression (AD).
This may appear strange to a lot of Africans because the general feelings surrounding the expectation of a baby especially in the African worldview is usually that of joy, happiness and other positive emotions.
However, statistics from a 2020 study shows that the prevalence of antenatal depression in Africa is 26.3% which means that 1 in 4 pregnant women in Africa is likely depressed.
This is surprisingly a high rate and it is sad that there is not enough awareness on depression during pregnancy or antenatal depression. Just like other forms of depression, signs can be mild, moderate or severe.
Signs that you may be depressed during pregnancy
As a pregnant woman or someone close to one, the signs enumerated below may be indicative of antenatal depression:
1) Overwhelming sadness, worry or hopelessness
2) Lack of interest in day-to-day activities
3) Terrible mood swings and crying easily or for no reason.
4) Eating too little or too much
5) Loss of adequate sleep
6) Emitting negative energy like anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
7) Feeling ugly or worthless.
Although most of these feelings above are not strange with pregnancy, but then, once the incidence of these ill feelings is continuous, then it is possible that they are signals of depression.
Risk Factors of Depression during Pregnancy:
In the following lines, this article outlines some common reasons for antenatal depression:
1) Hormonal changes: The body of a pregnant woman undergoes many hormonal changes during the period of pregnancy. For instance, the body produces the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone in much greater amounts during pregnancy. There is also the physical change that comes with carrying another human being: ‘bloated’ tummy, swollen breasts and feet, weight gain, etc. All these changes in the body can combine with the dramatic changes going on in the life of the expectant mother thereby getting her overwhelmed.
2) Economic hardship: Financial worries are an important and common cause of depression during pregnancy. Pregnancy, childbirth and even training up a child are generally expensive. To even have a smooth pregnancy journey, the expectant mother needs adequate nutrition and access to quality antenatal care which requires finances. Therefore, it is most likely that a pregnant woman in tight economic conditions will easily fall into depression.
3) Poor family support: Having dependable family support can help improve mental health of pregnant women. In the same vein, a lack of support from family can trigger antenatal depression. This is commonly seen in cases of unwanted pregnancy.
4) Unfavorable marital conditions: Couple conflicts or partners not being in good terms can lead to depression during pregnancy. Issues such as gender preference of husbands, physical and verbal abuse can lead to antenatal depression as well.
5) Bad obstetric history: Women with a bad obstetric history are most likely to be at an increased risk of antenatal depression. This is directly associated with the mother’s fear of facing similar complications in her current pregnancy like the previous one. Complications or difficulties in former pregnancies can instill fear and anxiety in the expectant mother.
6) Previous mental health problems: A mother’s personal history of depression or other mental health problems is also a common risk factor for antenatal depression. Even having a family history of depression or mental illness contributes to the chances of developing depression during pregnancy.
7) Problems with previous pregnancy: Pregnant women who may have experienced miscarriage or stillbirth in the past are likely to experience antenatal depression in their following pregnancy as a result of the pain and trauma of losing a baby in similar circumstances.
While some women do not experience antenatal depression, there are others who experience postnatal depression instead. What this implies is that many women are at their most emotionally vulnerable states during or after pregnancy. Therefore, it is important to get equipped with the right information on pregnancy-related depression whether before or after childbirth. Ignoring antenatal depression can lead to more cases of postpartum depression if proper care is not taken.
If you found this article helpful, you will also want to read our article on Postpartum Depression: What you should know.
Are you pregnant and think you may be experiencing signs of antenatal depression? Get professional help by Speaking with a Doctor today!
It May Also Help:
- Seek family support from your partner and loved ones as emotional support from these people could be a protective effect against the development of antenatal depression.
- Join groups of pregnant women with the same challenge and get moral support.
- Practice self-help routines to improve your mental health.
Know that you are not alone. KompleteCare cares.
Congratulations in advance on your bundle of joy!
- Medically reviewed by Dr. Fadekemi Gabriel-Raji