depression in pregnancy

Today I would like (un-shamefully) to talk a bit about my journey with perinatal depression.  I feel that this is something I mostly do not talk about, as pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous journey.  Unfortunately by ignoring this very sad and real issue we are taking the power away from women who are going through this, very scary, mental issues and who need the support and re-assurance to seek help.   By not talking about it I am saying “it is not ok to talk about it,”  I am also saying that it’s not normal, and that it is better left, swept under the rug.  For me and everyone who potentially can be helped, by not speaking up we are killing our voice. Suffering under a cloud of shame is unnecessary and often worsened by isolation and feelings of inadequacy, even though this is a very common, health issue.

I have not written anything on the blog about all the amazing things and the journey I had planned for this pregnancy in the first and second trimester because I was going through a tough time to be 100% honest.  And quite frankly it was not such an amazing journey as I envisioned.  It has been a long pregnancy for me and not always joyous as people would like to think. 

This is my story

I have a long history of anxiety and depression which makes me a perfect candidate for depression during and after pregnancy.  Despite this, after finding out I was pregnant, I was told to stop taking my chronic meds (Leximil 5mg a very low dose) by my GP.  I was in my first trimester when depression and anxiety started crawling back into my life.

With depression it’s hard to tell what Is reality, and what is just happening in your head and actually caused as a result of things completely out of your hands.  Especially if you are not consciously aware of the disorder disease.  Even for someone like me who is very well aware of my disease. I very often still lose track of reality and cannot say to myself “feeling this way about yourself  is not a real reflection of your life, it is a mental state caused by your body, it’s not real.”  Instead, your mental state becomes your reality and you start living that emotion every day as if it was reality. 

Some real emotional feelings I had on a daily was;  Inadequacy, self-conscious, regret, worry about my life my future, worry about my work my clients my performance at work, not good enough, not intelligent, not worthy, DREAD, the world is against you.  You are alone.  No one understands.  The scary thing is, no matter how much you do, how beautiful, successful or amazing you are, it will not be good enough.  Ever.  Because of the severity of the imbalanced chemicals, it’s not actually a mindset or a choice either.

I started to withdraw from people and friends, I did not want to take phone calls, talk to anyone about my experience, I didn’t want to wake up for work or for life in general, stopped making an effort with myself, shortness towards my loved ones, irritation,  no feelings of ambition or excitement, no compassion or love towards other or anyone, no love to give, no love needed from anyone, did not want any advice or support.  I did not want to go out, go exercise.  I did not want to bond with my baby, In fact I was starting to resent having made a decision to have a baby and what will become of my life?  Worry started seeping in.  How am I going to do this all?  All the things I was interested in and passionate about lost its appeal.  This is a very very real and dark pit I found myself in.  It is called perinatal depression.  It directly stems from my already deep seeded depression/anxiety. 

About mid second trimester I was told that I was not supposed to just stop taking meds and that I need to see a psychiatrist.  It is scary right, makes you feel like you are a bit loony once you start juggling words like psychiatrist.   Medically I was advised not to take the meds and now someone else in the medical profession is telling me I have to start taking it again. These types of meds are however not like Panado’s which you take and it gets better. They take time to work.  I booked an appointment with a lady psychiatrist and I went to see her.

She advised to up the dose and go back on the medication I was taking.  What happens in my case with the type of disease I have, is that I have a I have a natural spike in serotonin (feel good hormone) which all gets released all at once. My brain then would absorb all at once because it is available. Your brain only makes a certain amount daily, so once that supply is exhausted is no more.  A normal brain will release serotonin over a steady period and then absorb it over a longer period which would result in a regulated mood.  What the medication does is it blocks your brain’s neurotransmitters from absorbing all of the serotonin at once and forces it to absorb it over a longer period of time.  Your mood is now regulated like a normal persons brain and functions as it should. So in a nutshell that is how my meds work. 

It is important to know, even if you don’t have a history.  The surge of pregnancy hormones in your body can easily develop to perinatal depression.  It is a real thing, and it is just as common as post-natal depression. Some say that it may even be the worst form of depression you can get. Especially because it is so widely ignored.

Anyways, slowly but surely things started to look up and I started to feel my old self again.  I am not saying that medication and psychiatrists is for everyone.  But that is what worked for me due to my history with the diseases. There are many other things you can peruse such as therapy, self-help books, cognitive behavioural therapy, yoga, exercising, habit changes etc.  The list goes on BUT the most important thing you need to do is to talk about it and to give yourself a voice.  

There is no shame in depression or perinatal depression.  I think it’s important to take the first step and to bring this dark subject into the light.  As women especially it’s important to help other women and not to judge them or to feel sorry for them.  Remember this time is also not only about giving the best to your unborn baby. It is also a time to give yourself the best.  You cannot be the best for your baby, your spouse, your children or the world if you are not the BEST first for yourself.  If you are going through something similar you owe it to yourself to take the steps to get better. 

Please share your comments.

Much love 

Xx Brigitte xx

Written by Brigitte Willers
I am a working mom from Cape Town. I am passionate about fitness, all things self help and DIY. I like to figure it out and share as I go along, after all we are all just trying to figure this life out. I am all about women helping each other to excel whether its in work, play, or health and fitness. I am a qualified with the Health and Fitness Professional association, I have chosen not to use it as a career path but rather to help women achieve their goals via this blog. My work/business is Project Management in the FMCG and Entertainment Sector (www.theprojectlead.co.za) My true passion is music, nature, animals, helping others and most importantly my family. I am quite a philosophical mess (on the light side) and on a great adventure of finding my true self, like most of us (except maybe mermaids and unicorns because they know exactly who they are) Why don't you join me on this exciting journey and we can do it together, I promise I will make you laugh and you won't get bored.