I Had Depressing Pregnancies

prenatal (antenatal) depression 2

In 2001 I was 30 years of age, had an interesting job, a husband that loved me, we had no financial worries and were having a baby that we had planned. I should have been over the moon, but I wasn’t. Instead I spent a lot of the 9 months of that pregnancy thinking about killing myself.

No one knew how bad I felt. Perhaps I wasn’t as tolerant as usual at work, I was definitely moodier with my husband but when I was alone I cried and cried. I was always tired and I felt so alone. All my other pregnant friends were happy and excited but all I felt was sad and frightened. I was obviously a freak, so tried to hide my low mood behind a list of ‘normal pregnancy’ excuses; I didn’t get much sleep, I was feeling sick, it was just my hormones. And I hardly thought about the baby growing inside me, apart from worrying that I wouldn’t know how to look after it, and feeling a faint sense of resentment towards it. I used to drive down the road and think about the best way to crash the car so I would most likely kill myself and not hurt anyone else.

Anyone with any experience of depression who is reading this post will probably instantly recognise the symptoms I’ve listed above. I was depressed.

I had AND or Antenatal Depression, often known as Prenatal depression. Everyone knows about its big brother, Post Natal Depression, and even 12 years ago we were warned about the depression that affects many women after their babies arrive. But no one ever mentioned that pregnant women can, and do,  get depressed as well.

Antenatal Depression is not uncommon, one in ten women will suffer from it during their pregnancies. Like all depression, the severity can differ between individuals and also during pregnancies.

In my case, I think the causes were hormonal and emotional. My own childhood had left me doubting that I had what it took to be a ‘good’ mother and I was also concerned about what would happen to the career I’d worked so hard for once I had a child. I had also had a history of mild depression during my teenage years.  I considered it likely that I would suffer from Postnatal Depression as well, and part of me thought that I’d least I would get some help then. But in reality only one out of every three women with AND remain depressed once they’ve given birth. I was one of the lucky ones and my low mood lifted perceptibly as I held my newborn daughter. I had a mild case of  the baby blues a few days later but then basically forgot how miserable my first pregnancy had been until 9 months later, when I found out I was pregnant again.

By the time I was 12 weeks pregnant with DD2, I was a mess. I was working part time, but the most important thing to me was my first daughter. I knew I couldn’t leave it until I was contemplating suicide this time around, so I took myself to the Health Visitor, who very unhelpfully told me I should consider a termination. Unwilling to even think about this, I saw my GP and finally got the help I needed. She took my mental status very seriously and monitored me carefully. I did try and do without Antidepressants but about half way through my pregnancy I had what can only be described as a breakdown, so started taking Prozac. These helped me limp through the rest of the pregnancy in a manageable frame of mind, and although I had a traumatic birth, things were relatively back to normal again once DD2 was born.

By the time I was pregnant for the third time, we had moved and I had a different, less interested doctor. But I knew what I needed and after an initial reaction to Prozac, I was prescribed citalopram instead. It did the trick and I finally had the chance to experience a relatively calm pregnancy.

And interestingly enough, when I was pregnant for a 4th time, this time with a boy, I had no signs of AND at all although I kept an eagle eye out for them.

Antidepressants helped me with my second and third pregnancies, but I also had some counselling which bought up some interesting points. DH was supportive and we had some childcare help with the older kids.  And things were much better once I had told people how I was really feeling. Just knowing that what I was feeling wasn’t ‘normal;’ and wouldn’t go on forever helped.

Antenatal Depression is still not as widely discussed as the Postnatal variety, but there is help out there if you are suffering. If you are pregnant and feel down, anxious or hopeless most of the time, then please speak to someone. Speak to your partner, your GP, your Midwife or you can contact PANDAS on their  Help Line at 0843 28 98 401.

Pregnancy is not meant to be Depressing.

I was moved to write this post after reading of the deaths of a heavily pregnant woman and her three children in Lowestoft, yesterday. There have been no official statements about the reasons behind this tragedy, but some of the information that has come to light suggests that the mother was having a tough time. Things must have seemed awfully hopeless for her to contemplate what is probably the most obvious explanation for these deaths, and I remember that feeling so clearly still, after so many years, that I just want people to know that it’s not normal, and there is help available.


11 comments on “I Had Depressing Pregnancies

  1. :O at the doctor suggesting a termination! And I’m so impressed you went on to have 4 kids. Interesting that you didn’t have AND when you were carrying a boy.

    Great post jacq

  2. I too had antenatal depression, but not to as great an extent as you. It was still awful though and I can only imagine what other people go through. Thankfully I managed to find myself some support (it wasn’t easy though and I think that had I felt any worse I wouldn’t have had the energy to do it). You’re right – just knowing that they’re not alone could help people who are suffering. Thanks for sharing x

    • When I look back on it, it’s a mystery to me how I didn’t know I was depressed with DD1. I seriously thought it was just how pregnancy was supposed to be.
      As you say, the trouble with depression is you are often too depressed to do anything about it. Knowing I already had a baby to look after when I felt it descending the second time was enough motivation for me to seek help.

    • Yes, isn’t it? Although other women carrying boys do still get AND. Some people think it’s to do with the amount of progesterone the placenta makes.

  3. I hadn’t realise AND was so common. I had it bad during my first pregnancy and much milder during the second. I remember it so clearly and thinking I must be a terrible person because of how I wa feeling.
    Thank you for sharing, it’s good to know there are others out there who felt the same.

  4. That’s a very honest post and must have been hard to write. It must be awful to spend what is supposedly a happy and exciting time feeling so dreadful.

    • I think the thing is, I didn’t know any different. I thought that this was how everyone felt for my first pregnancy but couldn’t understand how they could bear it!

  5. Also shocked by your hv’s reaction! I think this is a subject which isn’t talked about enough, PND is a bit more widely known and accepted these days but (and I write this as someone who is currently pregnant) when you are pregnant you are expected to be happy about it all the time. Even if you are constantly ill. Depression is obviously more than this but people won’t get help if we’re not honest about what having a baby can be like. Great post!

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