“…as many as one in seven women will experience symptoms of the mental illness during pregnancy and in the first months after giving birth, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal. And now, new research suggests that seeking help could be even more crucial after researchers found that suicide is a leading cause of death among pregnant women and new moms.”
* Only 39.2% (20/51) had mental health contact within the 30 days before death, similar to the rate among those who died by suicide non-perinatally
Considering that women are about as likely to die from hypertension (high blood pressure) as they are from suicide you’d think that mental health would be taken as seriously. In my experience is has not. I am generally asked “how are you feeling?” at each appointment, but I have been given absolutely no information on the signs of depression or what do to if I think I have it or the support available or that it’s not going to result in my baby being removed from my care if I seek help. Yet at each appointment I have had my blood pressure taken and my urine tested for signs of high blood pressure. I have been given leaflets on hypertension, told the signs to watch out for and had the risks explained to me. I have also been advised what will happen if it is spotted. Yet my mental health hasn’t been given any such support. POST birth mental health has been mentioned in brief, but nothing about pregnancy depression.
I didn’t even know it was a thing or that it was actually quite common and that it could kill me until I got it.
I got to week 30 of my pregnancy and started wishing that I wasn’t pregnant. I didn’t want the baby. I didn’t want my life to change. I resented the baby and I resented being pregnant. If I could have teleported the baby out of me and into someone else I would have, in a heart beat. I missed my old life. I missed the person I was. I missed how my relationship used to be with my husband. I was tired. I was uncomfortable. The constant niggle of a million different pregnancy related issues was getting to me. Then I started feeling unhappy. I was sad. I wasn’t looking forward to the future – there was no future. There was a black cloud sitting over my day. I was empty. I was moving from one moment to another. I was on auto-pilot. I was putting on a happy face to the outside world while inside I was losing myself totally.
The pregnancy was now affecting my mental health.
Yet I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. How do you tell people that you really don’t want to be pregnant and regret the fact that you are pregnant? How do you express that you are feeling like a horrendous mother BEFORE you have even had the baby? How do you verbalise that you are concerned something is wrong with your head without having people judge you as an unfit mother?
The cycle of negative thoughts seemed endless.
What if it’s not depression? What if I actually don’t want the baby? What if it IS depression? Will they take the baby off me? What will my husband think? Will he leave me? Will he hate me? Am I causing harm to the baby by being unhappy?
This went on for weeks.
My husband was the first to spot it. One day he’d found me lying on our bed next to our new puppy looking upset. He asked what was wrong, but I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t voice what was wrong as I was scared. My husband pressed the issue as he said he’d seen me unhappy for over a week and that I wasn’t my normal self. He was concerned about me (most people are only concerned about the baby) and that whatever it was we could solve it together. We were a team.
Eventually I opened up and explained to him about how I was feeling.
He already knew I hated being pregnant (I do hate it – it’s horrible and restrictive). He knew that I was worried about how it’d change our lives. He knew that I was annoyed at having to put my life on hold for a year (or more) as I happened to be the one in the relationship who had the womb. He knew that I was trying my best to stay positive, to stay active, to eat well and to stay social. He knew I was trying my best and that the baby was growing well. All the tests had said as much. But none of the tests had been measuring my mental health.
He also understands depression. He knows that it’s not just a general feeling of being sad or a general feeling of hopelessness. He gets that it’s different. He could tell, after I spoke to him, that this wasn’t just me being unhappy about being pregnant (pregnancy sucks), but that this was something else. Something that needed a reaction, a change and support. He also knew that I was highly unlikely to agree to take any form of medication while pregnant. He knows how to manage depression with no pills and so he’s been supporting me. He’s making sure I am ok, but I also know that if he genuinely thinks I am at risk of harming myself that he’ll take me to the doctors immediately.
Am I ok now? No, but I am better. I also know I am not alone in feeling like this. I know that there are other women out there who are facing pregnancy depression and may be facing it alone. Maybe they do not know what it is or what is wrong or how to get help. I want to keep talking about it so that we can affect change, so that more women know about it and can spot it early so that the help they get is more effective. I want pregnancy depression to me monitored as closely as hypertension. I want women to stop dying due to lack of understanding about something that is treatable.
So, if you are feeling like I was then please reach out to someone. Send me a message if you want. You are not a bad mother. You are not a bad person. You can get through this.