New research shows the condition is under-diagnosed, despite high numbers of pregnant women suffering. Tommy’s has launched an emotive video encouraging women to ask for help.
Between 10-15% of all pregnant women suffer with mental health problems such as depression and anxiety*, yet data suggests that disorders in pregnancy may not be diagnosed until the postnatal period, or even at all. To encourage these women to seek help, Tommy’s, the UK leading baby charity, has launched a thought-provoking video about mental health in pregnancy.
The video, named Talk to Someone, follows the story of a pregnant woman who exemplifies the real-life experiences of anxiety and depression felt by many women during pregnancy and early motherhood.
Tommy’s wants to see mental health treated on parity with physical health in pregnancy and urges women to look for help if they feel upset more than they feel happy.
Around 11% of women experience depressive symptoms in pregnancy
Around 11% of women experience depressive symptoms in pregnancy, and around 5% have a major depressive disorder. Anxiety disorders in the perinatal period are also common, affecting around 13% of women. Although rates do not differ between pregnant and non-pregnant women, it has been suggested that identification and treatment are lower in pregnancy. The data also suggests that in a third of cases, ‘postnatal’ depression actually starts during the pregnancy but it is often not recognised or treated at this point.
There is the expectation that a woman’s experience of pregnancy should always be joyous
Professor Louise Howard, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist and Professor of Women’s Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London says: “There is the expectation that a woman’s experience of pregnancy should always be joyous, but the truth is that pregnant women often put emotional and mental pressure on themselves to feel happy all the time. It is important for pregnant women not to feel embarrassed or guilty about experiencing the emotions they didn’t expect during pregnancy. They deserve compassionate support and should speak to a midwife, health visitor or GP for professional advice.”
Tommy’s has developed information for women around mental health in pregnancy, including advice on when you should look for help. Visit tommys.org/mentalhealth
The Tommy’s midwives have also put together some top tips to look after your mental health during pregnancy.
- Rest and focus on your baby. Take time out for you to do something you enjoy, improves your mood or helps you to relax
- Talk about how you feel with someone, a family member, friend, health professional
- Eat well – eat a variety of different foods and plenty of fruit and veg to get all the nutrients you and your baby need
- Take some exercise
- Take some time to think about and prepare for the birth and life with a new baby (a helpful Wellbeing Plan is available at tommys.org/file/Wellbeingplan)
- Rest when you can and try to get regular sleep
- Seek expert advice for worrying matters such as money, housing, employment and relationships
*According to research by National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) (2014).