But because these very normal feelings are so antithetical to the vivid picture many of us have of pregnancy, it makes it all the more difficult to talk about it or ask for help.
While I was very happy to learn that I was pregnant, I quickly became deeply depressed and subsequently gripped with a deep sense of guilt. I was worried that if I was not happy it would appear that the pregnancy was unwanted – which was not true – or that it meant that I was somehow ungrateful for not being full of pure joy. . More than anything, I worried about the effect my mood disorder would have on my unborn child, and that I would be a bad parent because of it.
It was extremely difficult to navigate such feelings. I was lost in a dark hole as my body changed, my hormones raged – and I felt unable to access the treatment I normally should have.
One of the reasons my mental health became so bad was that I had stopped taking my medication under the mistaken belief that any antidepressant would be harmful to the baby. What I wish I had known at this point is that there are options that medical professionals deem safe and it may actually be riskier to go through depression or anxiety not. processed.
Learn that while I was depressed and anxious and the pregnancy was hardly reassuring. I felt trapped – like I would hurt my baby if I took medicine, and I would hurt her if I didn’t. That just being me, I was already hurting my child. The whispering voice deep in my brain that I was doing the wrong thing – the selfish thing – grew louder and louder. I felt like a failure as a parent before I even started.
Rodney Whyte, senior pharmacist at Monash Health, advises pregnant and breastfeeding women on medication and says about half of the calls to him are related to mental health. The vast majority of callers are reluctant to take medication to treat their symptoms.
“There is a huge stigma,” says Whyte, agreeing that unrealistic expectations make it difficult for people to seek treatment. He says people are also often forced to stop or avoid treatment by misguided people around them, including family, friends, partners and even doctors. “Everyone thinks it is ‘bad’ to take medicines while pregnant and breastfeeding… but there are many medicines that are very, very safe. Especially if you know what to do with them.
The whispering voice deep in my brain that I was doing the wrong thing – the selfish thing – grew louder and louder. I felt like a failure as a parent before I even started.
Whyte explains that the key to getting the right treatment is talking to the experts in the field. It was my case. It was necessary to consult a perinatal psychiatrist before being able to access the right medication. I have spent months on a waiting list to do so as the normal high demand for such a service is made worse by the pandemic. By the time I got help, I had already been in what was a brutal first trimester. It then took several sessions with a psychologist to overcome my feelings of shame and fear about taking the drug. I was more than halfway through my pregnancy before I could start to feel better.
Of course, not everyone needs medication as part of their treatment plan. And whether or not medications are a factor, talking to a psychologist or counselor, therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy and support from people like maternal health nurses are often a crucial part of recovery. Like any other form of illness, it takes a multi-pronged approach and treatment that is specific to your own situation.
Finding the right treatment for me has dramatically changed my pregnancy. Although I still live with a lot of anxiety, I am able to deal with feelings more effectively and finally feel some of that joy and excitement again. I was able to bond with my unborn baby and I think maybe, just maybe, I won’t be a terrible mother after all.
I would have liked to know before embarking on this trip that it was normal not to feel good, that I was not alone, but above all, that I did not need to sacrifice myself or my plan treatment to be a “good” pregnant person. On the contrary, I now know that taking care of my mental health is a positive step not only for myself but also for my child.
Support is available from PANDA on 1300 726 306.
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