You are not alone.
My name is Delphi. In 2003, I discovered I was pregnant; it was my third pregnancy following a previous miscarriage.
At first I was delighted. But a few weeks later I noticed I was different. I was anxious, edgy and tearful, more than you’d expect in a healthy pregnancy.
I was displaying all the signs of poor mental health in my first trimester, with a hygiene-related obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), washing my hands repeatedly so much, that the skin was so tight and sore my hands would bleed. I was terrified I would somehow contaminate – and therefore lose – my baby.
I would take myself off to bed for hours at a time, too scared to go out, and cry and cry and cry. I was terrified if I told my doctor they would ‘lock me up’ and take my baby away.
I reached out to a friend who was also pregnant at the time, hoping she’d understand – she told me to “get on with it”. I tried to tell someone else, they told me I was “a bit of a wimp”.
At 32 weeks pregnant, I decided if I was ‘going mad’ (which is what it felt like) it was best for everyone if I told my midwife, Zoe, and she would do what had to be done.
Thankfully, Zoe reassured me I wasn’t alone. At the time, the research identified at least one in ten women experienced poor mental health in pregnancy. These days the figures are even higher.
I couldn’t get any counselling for anxiety and depression at that stage in my pregnancy; the waiting list then, as it is today, was months long. However, Zoe agreed I could have weekly visits, and the hospital allowed me to be monitored as often as necessary.
My son was born happy and a healthy weight, and my mood improved immediately. This started a journey for me into supporting women and their mental health.
I set up this website in 2004, became a stakeholder for the National Institute for Clinical and Healthcare Excellence (NICE) guidelines around perinatal mental health, qualified as a counsellor and have run peer support groups for women.
I was the regional finalist for the Health and Social Care Awards for Mental Health and Wellbeing, and in 2018 nominated for one of the Women who Keep Bedfordshire Safer Awards by the Office of the OPCC. (You can find out more about me and the work I do now here.)
The last thing you may expect when you’re expecting is to feel depressed, anxious or stressed, and those closest to you may find it hard to understand.
This is why, when you’re feeling low, it’s important to surround yourself with people who can support you. If your doctor and midwife know how you’re feeling, they can discuss any health concerns you may have – physically or mentally; and the NICE guidelines are now in place to make sure they look after you.
Your family and friends can also play an important part in being there for you during your pregnancy and beyond. Encouraging them to keep comments helpful and ask you how they can help, can make all the difference.
Healthcare has come a long way since I first set up this website, and my own work has transformed to move away from using medicalised terms around mental health (eg I refer to signs not ‘symptoms’ and options, not ‘treatment’). This is because labelling people using medicalised terms (like “treatment”) can contribute towards stigma. By using more helpful language we can recognise that when people are navigating a difficult time, they are not flawed or “broken” – they don’t “have issues” – but they may need more support and understanding to find their way through.
Working compassionately, I have also moved to use more inclusive language. You’ll see throughout this website that I use the terms women and pregnant people interchangeably, to recognise and appreciate that trans men and non-binary people can be part of this conversation.
This updated website, originally written just for depression in pregnancy, is with both you and them in mind, with links to other resources available.
Most important of all, remember – you’re not alone. If you are starting to worry about your mental health, speak to your midwife, the NHS on 111 or Samaritans on 116 123.
This website has been transferred to a new domain from the original which featured in: The Guardian, Pregnancy & Birth, Prima Baby, Daily Express and many more as well as BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.
This website must not replace any medical advice you will be receiving from your health care team. It is designed to help you consider positive ways to manage your mental health during and after your pregnancy. If you have any concerns about your mental health, please speak to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible.