A new study suggests that women who are depressed during pregnancy are at greater risk of having their mental health deteriorate in the future compared to women who have postnatal depression alone.
The survey of 260 mothers was conducted by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and Netmums, a women and parenting website.
About one-third of women who experience depression during pregnancy, or antenatal depression, have suicidal thoughts and less than one-fourth seek help from their physician, the survey found.
Antenatal depression has a lower profile than postnatal depression, but experts are now warning that more needs to be done to identify and support women with this condition.
According to the survey, over half (56 percent) of women had some problems with depression during their first pregnancy but almost two thirds (66 percent) reported problems with their second.
More than a third (38 percent) of the women surveyed said they had suicidal thoughts during or after their pregnancy.
“Depression and anxiety can be common in pregnancy, sometimes making life very difficult for both the parents and new baby,” said Sally Russell, co-founder of Netmums.
As many as 80 percent of women suffering from depression in pregnancy in the survey also went on to struggle with postnatal depression.
Furthermore, 52 percent reported that their depression affected their relationship with their baby and 38 percent said they had difficulty bonding with their baby.
About 22 percent of mothers sought medical help from their doctor as soon as they realized that they were not well, while 42 percent turned to their husband or partner when they first talked about how they felt.
“This survey shows that there is an urgent need to identify and help women with depression in pregnancy and after the birth of their baby,” said Cathy Warwick, M.Sc., chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives.
“If we can identify women as early as possible then we could prevent them declining into much more serious mental health problems.”
Source: The Royal College of Midwives