Antenatal refers to the period of time before birth. This is a time of huge physical, psychological and practical change. It comes with hormonal shifts and concerns regarding one's body, baby, relationship, career impact to name only a few. It is very common for women (and men) to experience changes in mental health during this period. Further, any mental health concerns that existed prior to pregnancy are likely to be affected by the changes during this time. Common antenatal concerns include:
- Fears of pregnancy and birth
- Unexpected pregnancy
- Relationship stress & adjustment
- Triggered pre-existing mental health concerns
- Ambivalence about the pregnancy/ baby/ parenthood
- Unexpected pregnancy outcomes
- Fear of body changes
- Fear of repeating less than ideal parenting styles experienced in family of origin
Somewhere between 12-39% of pregnant women meet clinical criteria for anxiety.
Unfortunately only a minority of these women seek psychological support. Treatment in pregnancy can prevent depression and anxiety from continuing through the postnatal period, or reduce the severity. Intense fears about birth can impact on your birthing experience.
Symptoms of Antenatal Anxiety:
- worrying thoughts that keep coming into your mind – like worrying that something may be wrong with the baby
- panic attacks – which are outbursts of extreme fear and panic that ‘take over your body’ and feel out of control. Sometimes this leads people to start avoiding situations for fear it may reoccur.
- constantly feeling restless, ‘on edge’ and irritable
- feeling tense in your muscles, and tight in your chest
Around 10% of pregnant women meet clinical criteria for depression.
Symptoms of Antenatal Depression:
- feeling low or numb – some people describe feeling nothing at all
- loss of confidence, feeling helpless, hopeless and worthless
- feeling teary and emotional, angry, irritable or resentful towards others
- changes in sleep – not being able to sleep even when you have the opportunity, or conversely, wanting to sleep all the time
- changes in appetite – accompanied by weight loss or weight gain
- lack of interest and/or energy
- difficulties concentrating, thinking clearly or making decisions (which could also result from lack of sleep)
- feeling isolated, alone and disconnected from others
- having thoughts of harming yourself, baby and/or other children
- finding it difficult to cope and get through the day.
If you are pregnant and feel professional help could benefit you please contact us. This is our area of special interest and we are trained to assess and treat your symptoms.The earlier the intervention the better. For further information on antenatal anxiety and depression, along with other mental health information specific to the perinatal period, see the COPE website, from which these symptom lists were taken (link above).
If you are in crisis please call Mental Health Triage: 13 14 65