Tuesday, 07 August 2012
We’ve written several blog entries about post-partum depression, and thanks to the number of people speaking out about it, more women are being screened, and are receiving the help they need. One topic that we’ve never covered is prenatal depression – depression during pregnancy. Jessica Grose, a writer for Slate.com, wrote a beautiful article detailing her experiences with this debilitating form of depression.
Jessica was happily married, had a great job, and was expecting her first child. She had previously struggled with depression, and was regularly seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist. Once she and her husband had decided to start a family, Jessica was carefully weaned off her antidepressants under the supervision of her doctors. Nobody mentioned to her the risk of prenatal depression, and she started to notice things weren’t right when she was 6 weeks pregnant.
She writes that she “felt so unlike myself, so incompetent, that I wished I wasn’t pregnant. I longed for some alternate universe where I could claw out of my sad self, leaving the broken shell behind to grow the baby while I resumed being a person again.” Jessica couldn’t stop crying and worrying about the future, and felt guilty for not having the pregnancy “glow”.
Worried about her child, and not convinced her experiences weren’t a normal part of every pregnancy, Jessica resisted going back on medication. She got progressively worse, and eventually Jessica and her doctors decided that the benefits of taking Prozac during her pregnancy far outweighed the risks.
“What made it easier to go back on was knowing what could happen if I stayed so miserable. There are studies that show that the stress of untreated severe depression and anxiety can be just as bad for the fetus as the very, very small risks of much-tested drugs like Prozac. And untreated depression doesn’t just affect the fetus and the mother -- it also affects the rest of the family. If a mother is so depressed it hurts her marriage, or she’s unable to care for her other children, the collective damage is something to consider.”
Jessica is now on a mission to educate women about prenatal depression by writing a series about it on Slate.com. “One of the most distressing parts of the dark days was how alone I felt. I didn’t know any women who were going through what I was, and did not even find kindred spirits online who could help me feel less isolated.”