Around 10-20% of women who are pregnant develop prenatal depression, according to the Department of Health. The symptoms can range from lack of sleep to a detached feeling to the unborn baby. And, yet, most women are unaware that prenatal depression actually exists.
In an essay for Refinery29 on Yahoo, Nicola Prentis describes how she felt going from someone who was eagerly trying to get pregnant to someone who was seemingly hoping she would miscarry weeks after her pregnancy was confirmed.
“I hated myself for my fickleness,” Prentis writes. “It was as if pregnancy had turned the floodlights on character flaws I never even knew I had. How could I be so un-self-aware, irresponsible, and selfish, dragging my partner and an unborn baby into a fleeting whim?”
Prentis explains that it was only after an extremely bad crying episode that she discovered “prenatal depression” on Google. After bringing her symptoms to her doctor, she was met with a shrug and an unclear diagnosis. On her part, self-diagnosing made all the difference.
“Far from feeling stigmatized, I now had an explanation that absolved me for the feelings I was so ashamed of. I could ignore the voice in my head and take the abortion idea out of the equation entirely,” she explains.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, all women should be screened for anxiety and depression, at least once during their pregnancy. Increasing awareness on how frequent it is and how many women are actually affected by prenatal depression is key to creating the space in which those who are affected can ask for her help.
“Sitting here now, next to a perfect, sleeping angel of a baby boy, writing about how I once hoped for a mother-to-be’s worst nightmare, I feel sickened by the ingratitude,” writes Prentis. “But it wasn’t me; it was an illness. The same hormones that were helping my body create a life were trying to kill it in my mind.”
Cover image courtesy of Shutterstock.