The possibility of depression during pregnancy doesn’t seem to be talked about very often.
We tend to hear the opposite–about pregnancy glow, and being awash in the hormones of love, etc.
It took me five entire pregnancies to admit that I don’t actually like being pregnant.
Of course, I love the building excitement, and the feeling of baby feet kicking in my belly will always be a memory I cherish deeply. Physically, my body handles pregnancy pretty smoothly.
However, during pregnancy, I am not generally happy.
Even now, I feel vulnerable admitting that. It’s not acceptable in our culture for a pregnant mama to say that she’s depressed.
Shouldn’t she be happy, joyous, full of gratitude and excitement for the new life she’s co-creating? (Here we go with the “should”s again!)
It’s not always as simple as that.
During pregnancy I really disliked the way I felt, and my thoughts did not follow the same patterns as before.
Logically, I knew how I wanted to feel.
I was also acutely aware of how society expected me to feel.
But the “feeling” part just didn’t come naturally for some reason. I could identify my negative thought patterns, but I couldn’t stop their steady flow; I couldn’t uproot them at their source.
At least by the time I was having my fifth baby, I was able to rely on the knowledge that once I gave birth, things would shift toward the better. Sure, I had postpartum depression as well – but not nearly as badly as my depression during pregnancy. Some women just do everything backwards, I suppose. 🙂
It finally occurred to me that there must be other women who experience depression during pregnancy like this.
I also realize that most women don’t have the perspective of five full-term pregnancies, however.
For me, help came via the Bach Flower Essences – these are a sort of homoepathic treatment for the emotions, gentle and safe to experiment with.
I did not have access to therapy, chiropractic, or other forms of support, but my knowledge of the Bach flower essences proved to be invaluable.
I tweaked and re-adjusted my chosen combination of remedies several times over the course of my last pregnancy, and I absolutely believe that’s what kept me feeling sane.
Directly after the birth, I was euphoric. I chalked that up to the post-birth “high”–the unimpeded rush of endorphins and oxytocin (the love hormone) that a natural, empowered childbirth brings.
I also encapsulated my placenta, which I was highly skeptical about, but beyond eager to try anything else that might stave off the debilitating symptoms of depression and anxiety postpartum, which I already knew well and had all be resigned myself to.
In the space of a week, however, I still felt as if I was on top of the world compared to the last 9+ months–it was a drastic internal shift for me.
Looking back, I know that I had prenatal depression to some extent during all my pregnancies, and it was a source of deep shame for me.
“Who feels like this when they’re so fortunate? What’s wrong with me?”
I think it’s worth noting that the pregnancies I struggled the most with were also the pregnancies where I had the most trouble taking care of my own needs–getting good nutrition, the need for rest and sleep, etc.
So what to do if you suspect you are suffering from depression during pregnancy?
Talk to someone. Stay in touch and authentic with your feelings. Confide in your midwife or doula, friends or partner. Know that there’s always a light ahead.
Make yourSelf a priority. A lack of time for yourSelf is really a lack of prioritizing yourSelf over other things. If you’re checking Facebook more than twice per day, you’ve got time for a five-minute centering meditation – even if it feels stupid while you’re “trying” to do it. The gift is in the trying 😉
Look into holistic therapies like the Bach Flower remedies, massage, chiropractic, acupuncture, Reiki, etc.
Holistic therapies consider the whole person–mind, body, spirit–and are especially helpful in resolving emotional issues.
Educate yourself about depression–and take measures to make sure you’re adequately supported after you give birth as well.
For me, that meant having my husband at home with us for the first two weeks, and encapsulating my placenta.
If you’re pregnant and struggling right now, my heart goes out to you. I urge you to seek out the help you need and deserve, for yourSelf and for your family.
Let’s stay in touch, k?