Keeping it real about Antenatal Depression & Anxiety

Pregnancy, there is so much emotion that comes with that status. I can distinctly remember the disbelief that ran through my mind the moment I saw that second line appear on the test stick. So much disbelief for that matter that I took four more just to make sure I wasn’t seeing things!

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Our journey to conceive was one that came with more hurdles than anticipated. It never occurred to me that we would struggle with fertility but the level of disappointment that occurred each month weighed heavier and heavier as I watched the pages of the calendar turn. We finally decided to seek fertility assistance and made an appointment to see a specialist the following month.  Literally two weeks after making the appointment we found out we were pregnant! So much shock, joy, worry, and fear ensued as we began this new phase in life.

After battling with extremely severe morning sickness for the first 16 weeks, fear of miscarriage, strain on our marriage and our finances we finally reached a point of comfort. Our baby was healthy and developing perfectly. Then it hit like a ton of bricks. That feeling that feels so wrong to have during a time that is supposed to be one of the most joyous seasons in life…. ANXIETY.

The furthest I have ever made it in a pregnancy was 18.5 weeks. Naturally, I began to feel anxious that something could be wrong or that I wouldn’t make it past that point. Weeks 18 and 19 both came and went but my emotions had not settled. During week 20 we had our anatomy scan. I cannot describe the tears of relief I experienced when I saw our little girl’s heart beating. I was able to count ten fingers and ten toes, she was measuring right on track and I have never heard a doctor use the word perfect so many times during an appointment in my whole life. So much relief washed over me during that appointment! Her smile just melted my heart.

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By that evening the anxiety was back. I felt so much guilt and shame. Why is it that during this time when I had just received such great news was I feeling so down? I started having panic attacks, waking up in the middle of the night in complete fear, and creating so much undue stress. When experiencing a panic attack, I generally stop breathing. I then proceed to shame myself for allowing myself to have a panic attack. Not breathing, raised blood pressure, and the extra adrenaline isn’t good for the baby. Now I’m not only experiencing guilt myself but I’m throwing on the mom guilt. What a mess!

After giving my midwife a heads up she recommended some herbal remedies to help alleviate my symptoms. Though these methods helped it wasn’t an instant fix. The herbal supplements and breathing techniques helped me to get to a point where I was able to manage the anxiety as it occurred.

Phew, glad that’s over…. Just kidding. I literally woke up one morning with depression. It wasn’t a gradual transition it was me waking up in a funk that I am still in weeks later. I have had postpartum depression in the past after my miscarriages and still-born but I had no idea that depression during pregnancy was a thing. There are so many different symptoms that I’ve had in this pregnancy that I was completely unprepared for. The challenge I face with my depression experience is that there is no warning. I go from being fine to anything but very quickly. Growing up in an environment where depression wasn’t acknowledged only makes the feelings of guilt and shame amplified. I can’t wrap my head around why during this happy time of feeling my little girl kick and seeing her grow I can feel so down.

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I don’t want to have to “act” happy about my pregnancy I want to be genuinely happy. I love this baby more than anything and I can’t wait to be her mom but I can’t say that I’m happy. I don’t know why and I don’t know what caused it. After rationalizing that it could be hormones or a variety of other factors I took myself to Dr. Google. Seven – twenty percent of women experience symptoms of depression during pregnancy. Often many women who suffer with postpartum depression exhibited symptoms during pregnancy that went unnoticed and untreated. Women who suffer depression while pregnant are more likely to go into pre-term labor, have a baby with low birth rate, and have a higher likelihood of experiencing postpartum depression. So, while being told to stay calm, relaxed, and keep the baby in a stress-free gestational environment a mom experiencing these symptoms now has to stress that her mental state is going to negatively impact her child’s development. The cycle alone is a vicious one. You try to remind yourself to stay calm, you try to control your emotions, yet you feel so unlike yourself.

Antenatal and postpartum depression/ anxiety/ and OCD are all topics that aren’t talked about enough. So many moms and dads go through it alone and often times never receive treatment. I’m not saying I have all the answers because I myself am still struggling daily to try to manage my symptoms but I do know that hiding those feelings only amplifies them. I refuse to be that mom that falls apart because I didn’t reach out for help. There are so many resources and I feel that if nothing else I need to make sure that others know where to find them. I want to be the best me that I can be. I had to learn early in my marriage that self-care is imperative to healthy relationships. You can’t pour from an empty pitcher. I hope that I’ve reached at least one other mom that can know she isn’t alone in her experience.

 

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