Maternal Mental Health
It’s important to seek help as soon as possible if you think you might be depressed, as your symptoms could last months or get worse and have a significant impact on you, your baby and your family.
With the right support, which can include self-help strategies and therapy, most women make a full recovery.
Depression in pregnancy is more common than you might think. It affects around 25% of women and can also affect fathers and partners.
The reason you are more prone to depression when you’re pregnant is because your hormone levels can rise and fall quite dramatically over the course of a pregnancy.
This is particularly true just after giving birth, as you no longer have to provide for the developing baby. This causes a huge shift in the amount of oestrogen you produce and can leave you feeling a little all over the place.
What is prenatal depression?
This occurs during your pregnancy, particularly in the early stages as your hormonal balance changes to accommodate your baby. It is sometimes known as antenatal depression.
There’s an expectation that pregnant women should be thrilled at the prospect of becoming a mother or growing your family. However, you may feel tired, grumpy or negative about your pregnancy, or not feel any connection to your baby. This can happen even if your pregnancy was planned.
Many women often don’t want to speak about these feelings for fear of being judged negatively. However, you should seek support in the same way as anyone else with depression would.
At Juno, we are particularly focused on breaking down barriers and destigmatising maternal mental health – one of the reasons we are so passionate about this is because 70% of women admit that they hide or ‘downplay’ their symptoms of anxiety or depression. This is also why we are aiming to build the largest online mental health community for parents in the world.
There are a number of treatment options available, from support groups and talking therapies to antidepressants. If you do need medication, your doctor can suggest an antidepressant that’s safe to take during pregnancy.
We would always encourage you to speak up about your concerns and get the reassurance you need. Join our Juno Community too – and speak to other mums about how you’re feeling.
What is postnatal depression?
Many women feel a bit down, tearful or anxious in the first week after giving birth. This is often called the “baby blues” and is so common that it’s considered normal. The “baby blues” rarely last for more than a few weeks after giving birth.
Symptoms of this include:
- mood swings
- crying (sometimes for no apparent reason)
- loss of appetite
It’s very common and usually lasts around a week but doesn’t need treatment, as your hormones will usually settle down on their own.
If your symptoms last longer or start later, you may have postnatal depression. Postnatal depression (also known as postpartum depression) can occur at any time in the first year or so after birth.
Signs that you or someone you know might be experiencing post-natal depression can include:
- a persistent feeling of sadness and low mood
- lack of enjoyment and loss of interest in the wider world
- lack of energy and feeling tired all the time
- trouble sleeping at night and feeling sleepy during the day
- difficulty bonding with your baby
- withdrawing from contact with other people
- problems concentrating and making decisions
- frightening thoughts – for example, about hurting your baby or harming yourself
Many women don’t realise they have postnatal depression, because it can develop gradually.
What causes postnatal depression?
The cause of postnatal depression isn’t completely clear. Some of the factors it has been associated with include:
- family history of mental health problems
- a history of mental health problems during pregnancy
- a stressful birth
- a stressful event occurring alongside your pregnancy, such as the death of a loved one
- a poor relationship with your partner
- feeling tired, overwhelmed and anxious
- worries about the physical changes in your body or the loss of your personal freedom*
Even if you don’t have any of these symptoms, remember, having a baby is a life-changing event that can sometimes trigger depression.
It often takes time to adapt to becoming a new parent. Looking after a small baby can be stressful and exhausting – physically and mentally.
How long does postnatal depression last?
As everyone’s experience of postnatal depression is different, this is a difficult question to answer.
For many mothers, postnatal depression may not go away at all without treatment, so it’s important you ask for help.
Encourage your partner to seek help if you think they might be having problems.
- depression is an illness like any other
- it’s not your fault you’re depressed or anxious – it can happen to anyone
- being depressed doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent
Take our mental health assessment to get a better understanding of your mental health.
Don’t struggle alone hoping that the problem will go away.