We've all heard of postnatal depression, but prenatal depression - which can be just as debilitating - is rarely talked about. Here, mum-of-two Fiona Ng opens up about her experiences with depression during pregnancy...
Pregnancy often comes hand in hand with other conditions – swollen ankles, high blood pressure and nausea. But one condition we rarely talk about is prenatal depression.
It wasn’t something Fiona Ng, 29, had heard about until recently, but she’s certain it blighted the first three months of her second pregnancy, leaving her unmotivated, tired and with a lack of interest for everyday life and socialising.
Now Fiona Ng - who is mum to Jasmine, 20 months, and Bella Rose, who was born in July - has decided to speak out about to raise awareness and help others realise they are not alone.
WATCH: Dr Trudi Seneviratne explains how depression can effect your unborn baby
“I didn’t realise the term prenatal depression existed until quite recently.Postnatal depression is more commonly talked about and personally, I feel, is taken more seriously,” she explained.
“Prenatal depression has been my most predominant pregnancy symptom second time round, alongside waves of nausea, and I wanted to share my experience for other pregnant women who are going through this.
“It can be an extremely lonely time, and one when you feel increasingly guilty, especially when you’re meant to have a surge of happiness and excitement at the prospect of birthing a new life.”
Fiona doesn't feel she was given the support she needed (Credit: Fiona Ng)
The main symptoms, many of which Fiona experienced, include inability to concentrate, difficulty remembering, feeling emotionally numb, extreme irritability, restless sleep, extreme or unending fatigue, desire to eat or not at all and weight loss / gain unrelated to pregnancy.
Fiona only found out about the condition after searching online and reading blogs and vlogs written by others experiencing the same feelings, which she found to be a source of comfort.
“I would rather have taken being sick every day over prenatal depression. There were days where meals were skipped, the TV would be on 24/7 for Jasmine and I wouldn’t leave the house or see anyone,”
“At times I felt absolutely crazy. The midwife offered no support, instead just telling me it was hormones," recalls Fiona.
Fiona now thinks she also suffered from prenatal depression during her first pregnancy (Credit: Fiona Ng)
Fiona now believes she also suffered prenatal depression during her first pregnancy too, although her symptoms were not as severe first-time round
“I do think second pregnancies are slightly different in many aspects and I’ve had friends with two, three or more children share the same thoughts," Fiona explained.
"With first time pregnancies you can spend your time dreaming about nursery designs and constantly read up on the size of your baby – ask me what stage my baby is at now and I couldn’t tell you – I’ve got a toddler to run around after and don’t have time for that.
“Being pregnant for the first time also tends to bond couples closer together; the man is generally protective over his partner and it’s a bit like the honeymoon period again, you fall into a different type of love, take last holidays before two become three and spend all your time dreaming what parenthood is going to be like. But second time round you know exactly what it looks like and it’s definitely not sugar-coated - you know that sleepless nights are going to hit harder than ever and that it’s going to be carnage getting out of the house."
Fiona’s experience is far from unique. Psychologist, Dr Angharad Rudkin, BabyCentre UK expert, says prenatal depression affects around 15 per cent of pregnant women and she urges anyone struggling to cope to speak to their midwife or GP as soon as possible.
She explained: “Prenatal depression is thought to be a combination of personal life stresses and the hormonal and physical changes that happen in pregnancy
"Like any kind of depression the symptoms vary from person to person. Women should seek help if they persistently feel bleak or hopeless or have little motivation in doing anything. “They may also have trouble getting to sleep, lack energy, overeat or have no appetite, have particularly low self-esteem or feelings of guilt.”
Although Fiona felt alone, many women experience similar symptoms (Credit: Fiona Ng)
Dr Rudkin added that it can be really difficult for women to admit how they are feeling when pregnancy is expected to be a time of joy, but depression is an illness not a choice.
“Depending on your symptoms your GP may recommend counselling or medication or a combination of both. Fortunately with the right support you're likely to get better,” she explained.
“Looking after yourself is also important so make sure you take time out to rest and relax. Exercise can also be really beneficial. Don’t take any herbal remedies for depression without talking to your GP. St John's wort, in particular, isn't safe during pregnancy.”
Fiona with her daughters Jasmine and Bella (Credit: Fiona Ng)
Thankfully, Fiona’s depression finally lifted after around three months, but being ill in the early months really took their toll.
“The first three months of my pregnancy were horrible. I just wasn’t my usual happy self, but my body was growing a human and I just have to accept that this is part of being pregnant," she confessed.
Now, the happy mum to two gorgeous little girls, Fiona had this advice for any mums-to-be who are suffering from similar symptoms: “You just have to take each day as it comes, talk to your partner as much as you can and if you already have children, let their little happy faces get you through each day.”