- Pregnancy is a time of change for a woman, her partner and their family/whanau.
- It can be both exciting and worrying with many changes to deal with.
- For a woman, her body starts to feel different and her emotions can start to change.
- She may become a lot more up and down, both in emotional states and energy, as her hormone levels change significantly.
- Thoughts of what lies ahead begin to occupy the minds of both the woman and her partner.
- These often become much more real for women at the time of quickening (when the mother starts to feel the baby move) which is normally at about 20-22 weeks in a first pregnancy.
- The relationship between the couple might change as they start to work out how their baby will fit into the family. There may be extra worries about money and whether, or when, the woman will go back to work.
All this is normal, but sometimes this can become overwhelming and depression and anxiety disorders can occur. It is important to recognise what is normal and what may be a sign of a more serious problem.
40% of women who experience depression in pregnancy will go onto develop PND, unless they get help during pregnancy.
What is normal?
Initially, there is usually excitement over the positive pregnancy test result. If the pregnancy was unplanned this may not be the case. There may be also worries about whether to continue with the pregnancy.
Common concerns can be:
- Will you be a good parent?
- Can you parent alone (if you have no supportive partner)?
- Can you manage another child?
- Are you too old or too young to have a child?
- Will your relationship survive a pregnancy and a baby?
- Will the baby be alright?
- Will you carry on working? When will you stop?
- How will you manage financially?
Reality sets in, especially when some of the normal pregnancy symptoms occur, such as tiredness and morning sickness. Emotions can change. You can be happy and excited one minute then worried and tearful the next. A degree of this is normal. Extremes however, especially if they do not settle down, need to be assessed by a professional.
“I was thrilled to be pregnant…coped with the usual ups and downs for most of the pregnancy. However, I did feel some anxiety regarding the birth. I worried about, “What if I don’t cope with the pain”. I assume most first time mothers would question this.”
Dads worry too
- Can they cope with the responsibility of a baby?
- What will happen to their relationship?
- Will they still be able to play sports or carry on with their normal social activities once a baby arrives?
- Will their partner still have time for them or will she too interested in the baby?
Especially with a first pregnancy, couples can become very preoccupied with all the physical changes that are occurring with the growing baby.
As the pregnancy progresses, they can become focussed on the delivery, purchasing baby items and preparing the “baby’s room”.
Where there are existing children, couples can worry about the effects a new baby will have on these children. Some start thinking about ways of preparing the children for the “new baby”
Management of Psychiatric Disorders in Pregnancy. Yonkers KA, & BB Little (Eds). Arnold Publishers, 2001.Rassool G, Villar-Luis M. Reproductive risks of alcohol and illicit drugs: An overview. Journal of Addictions Nursing, 2006; 17:211-213.Psychiatric Disorders and Pregnancy. V. O’Keane, M. March & G. Seneviratne (Eds). Taylor and Francis publishers. 2006.