How I Dealt With Depression and Anxiety During Pregnancyby Sophie Gillum-Webb
Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the most joyous and momentous periods we can experience as women. Our bodies are literally growing life, and there isn't anything quite as amazing as that. You hear about all these women falling pregnant and blooming with a 'pregnancy glow.' For me, that glow never came, and pregnancy was a low and overwhelming period that I struggled with constantly.
My husband and I decided that we wanted to expand our family and have a second child. We had waited almost seven years due to my health not being the best, and it was something we weren't sure would ever happen. It was exciting embarking on that journey thinking of us growing from a family of three to a family of four, and I was devastated when I took the first few pregnancy tests during our period of trying to conceive. When I finally fell pregnant, we were overjoyed, and although I was a little nervous about the impending change, I was overwhelmed with happiness.
I suffered from terrible morning sickness for the first three months, and it left me almost entirely out of action. I spent my days lying still on the sofa, trying to subside the nausea. Everything was difficult - work, the school run just getting out of bed on a morning. Eventually, the sickness passed, but I was left with what felt like a black cloud hanging over me. I was excessively emotional, and I would spend the best part of my days in tears. When I opened my eyes in the morning, anxiety would wash over me for no real reason. I questioned why I ever thought having another child was a good idea when it was making me so miserable.
At first, my doctor and midwife put my feelings down to the change in my hormones. When you go through pregnancy, everything changes within your body, and that can impact your mood. This was more than just hormone blues, though, and I started to feel as if I couldn't cope. I repeatedly told my husband that I felt like a bad mother, and I shouldn't be bringing a baby into the world when I'm already failing as a mother. He was my absolute rock he held me, heard me and supported me in ways I can't even describe.
[Read more: Trying for Baby #2]
Worrying About Seeking Help
I was afraid that saying out loud to a professional how I felt would put my son at risk as well as my unborn baby. Deep down, I knew I was a good mother, and I knew that when this baby arrived, I would do everything I needed to love and care for them. Even though I hadn't given birth, my baby was very much loved and wanted, I never doubted that but I didn't like how being pregnant made me feel.
Despite my worries, I was honest and open, and my midwife was amazing. She referred me to the Maternity Mental Health Team, where I was assessed by a psychiatrist. Although this seemed daunting and ultimately, I knew I was, in a way being 'judged' this was just standard procedure. The team were very clear that I was only being seen so that they could work with me in creating a care plan that helped support me in the ways I needed it most. They weren't interested in trying to take my children away from me or prove I was an unfit parent. They said it was clear I was a good mum because I wanted to get the help I needed.
We discussed everything from my own childhood to how I was feeling today. I shed a lot of tears, but I was continuously reassured that what I was feeling was normal. The psychiatrist advised that there was some medication I could take that was safe for my baby but might just help me get through this period. I was never pressured into taking anything, and in the end, I didn't but knowing I had the option was helpful.
After my initial appointment, I could contact the team at any point for help, support and reassurance should I need it. I left that appointment feeling a little less burdened. I had this fantastic network of people around me, and I felt supported.
[Read more: Dealing With Unwanted Baby Advice]
The Maternity Mental Health Team enrolled me on a CBT course, which I found really useful. Through this, I learnt different coping mechanisms and ways to deal with situations as they arose to prevent the anxiety and help stop that overwhelming feeling I constantly had. I still use these practices today, and I would say the course was invaluable to me.
Through the CBT sessions, I was also invited to enrol on a mindfulness course, which was amazing! We learnt different breathing techniques, meditation and ways to feel more 'in the moment'. I was able to take these tools I learnt during the sessions and apply them to my everyday life.
It was clear that my anxiety and depression were a result of my pregnancy, so part of treating this was accepting that I couldn't change things and not beating myself up for how I felt. I took one moment at a time if it all felt too much and overwhelming I took a break, but I felt much more equipped to deal with what was going on.
Pregnancy in some ways is such a gift as not everyone can carry their own child and I felt incredibly selfish to admit that I wasn't enjoying it when I know for a fact people would give their right arm to be in the position I was in. There is no shame in feeling low during pregnancy, and it has no bearing on how you will be as a mother. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression while pregnant, seek help from your midwife or GP, they aren't there to judge you but will be able to offer the support you need.
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