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How to deal with antenatal depression
By Samoina Wangui | Updated Apr 11, 2017 at 12:00 EAT

For many women, the discovery of one’s pregnancy is met with excitement and joy. While there is always the lingering fear of the things that could go wrong, this journey is for many, a wonderful experience. ​But what happens when some moms-to-be cannot soak in this glow? What happens when a pregnant woman is struggling to come to terms with the pregnancy? What happens when her nights are spent soaked in tear-drenched pillows? Are these factors just attributed to the ‘hormones’ or could they be a pointer it a more serious underlying problem?What happens when her nights are spent soaked in tear-drenched pillows? Are these factors just attributed to the ‘hormones’ or could they be a pointer it a more serious underlying problem?Depression is ranked among the top most prevalent mental health illnesses globally. When it occurs during pregnancy, it is referred to as antenatal depression. While it is not commonly spoken about, recent studies show that antenatal depression affects many moms-to-be across the world. Part of the reason for this is that pregnancy, whether planned or unplanned, has a profound psychological effect on the woman. In a world where there are multiple stressors, some women find it incredibly hard to cope with the changes that pregnancy brings along, thus predisposing them to antenatal depression.According to PANDAS, a global foundation that is dedicated to providing support to parents experiencing perinatal mental illnesses; antenatal depression affects 1 out of 10 pregnant women. A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimates the prevalence of antenatal depression to be 10% in developed countries and up to 25% in developing countries.A study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology estimates the prevalence of antenatal depression to be 10% in developed countries and up to 25% in developing countries.A research article written by Linnet Ongeri shows that in Kenya, the prevalence of antenatal depression (herein referred to as antepartum depression) stands at 18%, much higher than the global prevalence. These high rates of depression in pregnant women create the need to address antenatal depression as a key subject in maternal mental health care. Despite these sobering statistics, this condition is either not recognized well or there are few studies that underpin the need for adequate treatment in the clinical setup particularly in Kenya.These high rates of depression in pregnant women create the need to address antenatal depression as a key subject in maternal mental health care. Despite these sobering statistics, this condition is either not recognized well or there are few studies that underpin the need for adequate treatment in the clinical setup particularly in Kenya.Despite these sobering statistics, this condition is either not recognised well or there are few studies that underpin the need for adequate treatment in the clinical setup particularly in Kenya.These high rates of depression in pregnant women create the need to address antenatal depression as a key subject in maternal mental health care. Despite these sobering statistics, this condition is either not recognized well or there are few studies that underpin the need for adequate treatment in the clinical setup particularly in Kenya.It is therefore very important that pregnant women look out for some of the symptoms that accompany antenatal depression. These symptoms include recurrent anxiety attacks, guilt, low energy levels, and intense worry over the newborn’s life and whether one will be able to cope as well as the overwhelming fear of asking for help. Many moms will pull back from social support systems and pull away from family and friends.These symptoms include recurrent anxiety attacks, guilt, low energy levels, intense worry over the newborn’s life and whether one will be able to cope as well as the overwhelming fear of asking for help. Many moms will pull back from social support systems and pull away from family and friends.Many moms will pull back from social support systems and pull away from family and friends.The precise cause of antenatal depression, according to PANDAS, can be grouped into three as follows: social, emotional and physical causes. Socially, this is not a mental health condition that is easily talked about, and more often than not, affected women get the notion that the struggles they face are likely hormonal and not mental. Additionally, today’s lifestyles mean that more people are increasingly detached from community; long gone are the days when communities were close-knit. Additionally, today’s lifestyles mean that more people are increasingly detached from the community; long gone are the days when communities were close-knit.On the emotional front, pregnancy, without a shadow of doubt, causes significant emotional changes which place a great strain on relationships. Depending on how this is handled, moms-to-be may experience problems with their partners, and friendships tend to change dynamically, placing great stress on the women.The physical changes that a pregnant woman’s body undergoes have also been shown to be one of the causes of antenatal depression. The morning sickness in the first trimester, the often engorged breasts, the heartburn, swollen legs, dizziness among others, are the jarring new reality of pregnancy, and these have a profound effect on women. More importantly, these causes are not independent of each other, and will often overlap.In many cases, antenatal depression goes on to disappear after child birth, but for up to 30% of women who suffered the condition during pregnancy, this goes on to develop as postpartum depression. This highlights why it is important to treat antenatal depression; in doing so, it is possible to arrest Postpartum Depression before it rears its ugly head.As a result of the stigma that many pregnant women and moms suffer with regards to maternal mental health illnesses, Postpartum Depression Kenya is currently running an online campaign to raise awareness on the same as well as help affected women get help. You need not suffer alone as help is available.


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