Anxiety and depression - Sarah's story

In her first trimester, Sarah, suffered from extreme exhaustion and thought this was the trigger for bouts of anxiety and angry outbursts.

There were some weekends when I couldn’t get out of bed.

"It started at 7 or 8 weeks pregnant and I thought there was no reason to be quite so tired so I was getting quite worked up. I had heard that trimester one could be quite exhausting, but there were some weekends when I couldn’t get out of bed, I’d  get up for an hour and just have to go back to bed, I was so exhausted. Which was then getting me mentally down because I wanted to not waste the weekend in bed.

I was going to the doctor anyway because I thought maybe I needed iron tablets, but then the morning I was going I had a specific proper meltdown over something really silly, the dog had had an accident in the hall and I came across it and absolutely blew."

I do have a bit of a temper but this wasn’t me… I absolutely flipped the lid.

"And I thought, ‘Nah, nah, nah, this has got to be something else.’ I was not feeling myself, and knew that I wanted to do something about it, even if it was just talking about it.”

Although she did want any specific help from the doctor at that point, it was important to Sarah to speak to the doctor and get it on her notes in case she needed any help in the future.

“That was all I needed, to get it out, to speak to somebody, feel that I wasn’t completely alone."

"The doctor told me antenatal depression is more common than postnatal depression. I shy away from the word ‘depression’, and I would never say I was depressed, that word was a step too far. But just to hear it from a healthcare professional was enough to make me think ‘I can do this, I can cope’. I knew if I had to go back there was the option of counselling, drops, whatever I needed."

In the second trimester as her tiredness lifted, so did her anxiety. It returned in the third trimester but she felt better able to manage it better because she was now aware of the pattern, and she was quicker to go to the doctor – again for reassurance that what she was going through was not uncommon. Although she was worried about whether her ability to bond with her baby might be affected, they bonded well.

“It did concern me that it might impact on how I bonded with my baby because I was thinking ‘If I’m this tired now, how am I going to cope with a baby who’s dependent on me?’ but it 100% didn’t impact on our bond at all. If anything it’s made it stronger because I’ve had to work to get here, I know pregnancy isn’t a breeze. I realise that it’s not such a walk in the park.”

Looking back, Sarah wonders whether her desire to be a person who copes on her own got in the way of her need for support. 

Read more about anxiety and panic attacks in pregnancy.

She feels that the prevailing happy images of pregnancy can make it harder to cope, because when everyone else appears to sail through, you can feel like you’re failing it you don’t.

Perhaps I should have got more help, because I realise I’m very bad for not taking help when I need it. I certainly didn’t need any medical help, but maybe I should have spoken to someone a little bit more, admitted it a bit more to myself. I shy away from the word ‘depression’ horrendously. It wasn’t as bad as that, but even if it had been I would probably still have been ‘No, I’m not depressed’.

I did start to doubt myself, thinking ‘Am I doing something wrong? Is my body not right?’ It can be quite daunting thinking, ‘Do women literally glow through nine months of pregnancy? What am I not doing, what am I missing?’