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Depression During Pregnancy

I’m having a tough time, y’all.  It could be because I’ve gained a lot of weight.  Could be because I’m sleeping in 45 minute increments.  You know, in between all the peeing, heaving from one side to the other and pillow readjustments.  Could be because my child (the one currently outside the womb) has turned into the Little Tyrant after last week’s fever, which has caused increased bickering between me and my husband. Bickering, my ass. Let’s call it what it is: fighting.

So yeah. I’m feeling low.

Thanks to women like Heather Armstrong, Brooke Shields and Gwyneth Paltrow (I still won’t go see Country Strong) you hear a lot more about postpartum depression than you used to but not so much about depression during pregnancy.  Because isn’t being pregnant supposed to be a happy time filled with anticipation?

In fact, at one time, health care professionals thought that pregnant women couldn’t suffer from depression because of their pregnancy hormones. It was believed the hormones protected against mood disorders like depression, leaving women more vulnerable to the illness after the baby was born and their hormone levels plunged. They now believe that the rapid increase in hormone levels at the start of pregnancy can disrupt brain chemistry and lead to depression during pregnancy.

Pregnancy is an exciting, joyful time, it is… but it’s also miserable.  In fact, when you go into pregnancy unprepared and then have to deal with such extreme physical and emotional changes, you could be more prone to depression. But the expectation that pregnancy is a glorious time can sometimes make it harder to diagnose depression and anxiety because women may chalk their feelings up to the stereotypical hormonal moodiness that often accompanies pregnancy.

Straight up, whether your have a smooth pregnancy or not, that nine months is filled with extra stress, worry and numerous emotional and physical changes. Imagine all the changes your body undergoes!  It’s insane! Gaining a lot of weight, puking, peeing constantly, hemorrhoids, acne, aching bones, stretch marks… that ain’t anybody’s idea of a good time.  Sure, it’s all worth it, but it doesn’t really make those sleepless nights any more bearable.

According to AmericanPregnancy.org, about 10-20% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy, and a quarter to half of these will suffer from major depression.

Some of the symptoms below, such as fatigue or trouble sleeping, are common among healthy women during pregnancy. But when they’re combined with a sense of sadness or hopelessness or they interfere with your ability to function, depression could be to blame.

Here are some symptoms:

* Persistent sadness
* Difficulty concentrating
* Sleeping too little or too much
* Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
* Inappropriate guilt or feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness
* Anxiety
* Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
* Change in eating habits

I can tick off every item on this list. But, because of the guilt (one of the symptoms), I still shy away from coming out and actually saying I’m depressed. It just seems so… so… so high school drama or something, you know? I qualify depression with statements like, Oh, I’m having a tough time. I’ll be okay. But days and days go by, and I don’t feel okay.

When you don’t feel like talking about how bad you feel? That’s exactly when you need to talk to someone about how bad you feel. Or you can blog about it, like me. Seriously, don’t be shy about letting your doctor, midwife (or the internet) know if you’re feeling down.  Your emotional health is just as important as your physical health and can often affect your physical health.

Look, if you’re having your first child, that alone can be enough to cause daily panic attacks.  Will I be a good mom?  Will I know what to do?  What if she cries all the time?  I remember all those feelings of doubt.  Best thing to do is to talk about them.  Talk to your spouse, your doctor, other mothers, message boards, here in the comments section.  Because I guarantee you that no matter how put together a mother appears to be, she has felt those exact same feelings you’re feeling.  I’m feeling them now while expecting KID B.  How will I give him a bath with Violet climbing on the kitchen table and jumping on the couch?  How will I grocery shop?  OH MY GOD!  Grocery shopping with two kids?!  Can it be done?  CAN I DO THIS?

Calm down.  Take a few deep breaths and look around.  Women are doing it everywhere, all the time.  And surviving.  Thriving, even! Here’s a little tip from me to you, something I have thought about several times in these past pregnant months:

Nicole Richie before parenthood. The Simple Life, drunk driving the wrong way down the interstate. Dear God, I wouldn’t let her babysit a pet hamster, let alone a child. And look at her now. If Nicole Richie can successfully mother two children, SO CAN I!

If you’re afraid, stressed, confused, anxious – tell someone. It isn’t a failure, it’s triumphing over depression. The most important thing is that someone knows what you are dealing with and can try to help you. Never try to face depression alone.

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