FAMILY MATTERS: Support for pregnancy tough times

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Pregnancy is meant to be a joyful time but for some women even a planned baby on the way can bring depression and fear.

In Sheffield help is at hand from the Perinatal Mental Health Service.

Consultant psychologist Dr Nusrat Mir said: “Women getting depressed during their pregnancy does occur quite commonly. It isn’t talked about quite as often as post-natal depression. It is more common in women who have a history of depression already.”

He said that research suggests women are most likely to suffer with depression “out of the blue” during the second and third trimester.

Dr Mir explained: “When you’re depressed it will be classic symptoms such as low mood, crying, loss of motivation and interest. Women can also develop negative ideas about the pregnancy, even women who have planned to have a baby and are happy about it can become extremely unhappy and angry. They may even think about terminating the pregnancy.”

He added that some women worry about their baby having a birth defect that will prevent them from bonding with the child or have extreme fears about coping with labour. Although many women will have negative feelings at some point, Dr Mir said that health professionals would become worried if they last more than two weeks.

He added: “A woman should be able to go and ask for help without any concern that she would just be fobbed off. There is a lot more that is known and a lot more education and training of midwives and GPs to spot mental problems, not just physical ones.”

He said that women worry they will be judged by others: “This is a genuine illness; it’s not their fault that they’re struggling to be happy and enjoy a beautiful baby.”

Some new mums don’t feel up to going to mother and baby groups because they will feel inadequate.

Media coverage of celebrity mums who quickly look as good as before they were pregnant can add pressure.

The Perinatal Mental Health Service, which is run by Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust, offers services following an assessment that include counselling, home visits, cognitive behavioural therapy, support groups, anti-depressants where appropriate and, if necessary, admission to the specialist Michael Carlisle Centre at Nether Edge.

Dr Mir stresses: “Any woman who is pregnant shouldn’t hesitate to speak to a GP or midwife. There is help out there.”

* Crying spells that come on spontaneously.

* A persistently low mood, day after day, where you are not able to pick yourself up.

* Losing the enjoyment of life or interest in things you normally enjoy.

* Negative or bleak thoughts that do not go away about yourself or the pregnancy or wanting to end the pregnancy.