This week is the second annual Pre and Postnatal Depression Awareness Week (#PNDAW17) run by the fantastic charity, the PANDAS Foundation. And this year the week is focused on raising awareness of prenatal mental health conditions. So I wanted to share my story of suffering from prenatal anxiety and depression after experiencing recurrent miscarriages.
My story of Prenatal Anxiety and Depression
At risk of Perinatal Depression and Anxiety
Sadly, Mr H and I always knew that my pre-existing and long-term mental health conditions had to be taken into account when we eventually decided to start a family. And I had a number of discussions with my psychiatrist about how and when Mr H and I could try for a baby.
When discussing having children, Mr H and I often spoke about postnatal depression. We knew the statistics of how many women suffered from postnatal mental health problems. And my psychiatrist had warned me that this risk was even higher in my case because of the number of depressive episodes I’d experienced.
However, we barely spoke about prenatal anxiety and depression. I was aware that the hormones of pregnancy could affect my emotions. But I never considered that I could actually struggle with prenatal mental health problems.
My pregnancy with Little Miss H
Before my pregnancy with Little Miss H, I’d suffered a missed miscarriage. It had been a highly upsetting and heartbreaking time. Yet it brought Mr H and I closer together. And a few months later, we discovered that I was pregnant with Little Miss H.
I remember crying at my booking in appointment with the midwife. The thought of miscarrying again filled me with fear. But there wasn’t much that my midwife could do. And she advised me to go home and try to relax. She didn’t mention that my miscarriage could put me at even greater risk of suffering from prenatal mental health problems.
But I was very lucky that my depression and anxiety were stable during and after my pregnancy with Little Miss H.
Trying for a second baby
Little Miss H was 7 months old when Mr H and I decided that we wanted another baby. And although the timing wasn’t right, I became unexpectedly pregnant. A few days after taking the test, I miscarried.
I went on to have two more miscarriages. Then in November 2015, I discovered that I was pregnant for the sixth time. The pregnancy filled me with fear and anxiety. I couldn’t see the pregnancy ending happily.
Suffering from Prenatal Anxiety and Depression
The first trimester, was particularly terrifying. But during this time my midwife was amazing. She listened to all my fears and worries. And she arranged for additional pregnancy scans and she also made sure that I saw the appropriate mental health professionals.
She acknowledged that the recurrent miscarriages had led to prenatal anxiety and depression.
I was anxious all the time. I could not relax and I found it nearly impossible to enjoy the pregnancy. And I could not bond with my baby. As I did not want to fall in love with the life growing inside me, only to have my heart shattered once again.
According to the PANDAS Foundation, these feelings are common during pregnancy after baby loss:
“If you have suffered a miscarriage or stillbirth previously it is inevitable that any further pregnancies will be met with anxiety and fear. It isn’t just anxiety which can lead to depression; the pregnancy can stir emotions of loss and grief. It is hard to imagine the level of fear and grief which any one goes through after a miscarriage or stillbirth. It is important when in this situation the feelings are discussed with your midwife or G.P. who may recommend counselling.“
Getting the right support
I finally received the right support when I was pregnant with Little Mister H. And that was thanks to my wonderful midwife, who understood how I was feeling. It is only thanks to her persistence that I received the help that I needed once Little Mister H was born.
I was lucky. I had someone who would listen to my concerns and fears.
Other pregnant women are not so lucky. They don’t speak up about how they feel because they are ashamed of their thoughts and emotions. They are afraid that their feelings will be brushed aside and so they remain silent.
Sadly, in one third of cases a woman who has experienced prenatal anxiety and depression goes on to suffer from postnatal mental health problems. Which only goes to show how crucial it is that women are given the help and support that they need during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and feeling anxious or depressed then please talk to your GP or midwife. You do not have to go through this alone. And you don’t have to feel ashamed of your thoughts and emotions. It’s okay, not to be okay. But you owe it to yourself and your baby to get the help that you deserve.
I’ve written additional posts about depression and deciding to become a parent, suffering from prenatal anxiety and pregnancy after baby loss. You can read these here:
“If you would like to donate to PANDAS Foundation ensure they can continue to help support families affected by both pre & postnatal mental illnesses please text PANDAS £3, £5 or £10 to 70660 or visit their website for further information and support.
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