Postpartum Depression May Start During Pregnancy
When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I didn't have a word for the strange feelings I found myself experiencing.
I wrote a book about my time being pregnant, in which I described a sort of “pregnancy depression” that I sank into. In short, I was kind of miserable and emotionless, shutting down mentally and struggling with feelings that I wouldn't love my baby. I even had a breakdown one night, flinging clothes across my soon-to-be daughter's nursery, flipping over chairs, and ripping blankets I had just folded hours before.
It was bizarre, and yet when I also developed postpartum depression after she was born, I never thought to connect the two.
A new study shows that what we thought about postpartum depression may be all wrong. Instead of developing after pregnancy, this study shows that many cases of postpartum depression actually start during pregnancy, as was the case for me.
The research, which comes out of Australia, found that in 9 out of 10 of women who reported getting the “baby blues” also had mental health problems before their pregnancies even ended. Furthermore, women who had mental health problems prior to their pregnancies had an even higher risk of developing postpartum depression.
The study concludes that “women who suffered from problems with depression and anxiety in adolescence through to young adulthood have a greater than one in three chance of having high levels of perinatal depressive symptoms.”
Many doctors have theorized that there is a link between pregnancy hormones and depression, as in the hormones of pregnancy could actually cause a woman to develop depression. But this study suggests that the depression issues are more likely an ongoing struggle that are worsened by the stress and other conditions that having a baby can bring. (Hello, sleep deprivation.)
The benefit of such a study shows that women who are at risk, such as those who have struggled with mental health issues or depression even prior to becoming pregnant, will be more closely monitored during and after their pregnancies for signs of postpartum depression.
It's also helpful for women to know their own risk factors so they can take preventive steps in decreasing the triggers for postpartum depression. For instance, setting up a plan, if possible for help postpartum, or even something as simple as hiring a housekeeper or having some meals delivered for the first few weeks. Protecting your mental health is worth it.
Did you have depression before getting pregnant?