Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder

By Madeleine Speed

Women can often feel very emotional about having PGP and the difficulties of managing the symptoms in everyday life, particularly if it hasn’t been diagnosed or family and friends aren’t aware of it. When negative feelings of, for example, sadness, anxiety, helplessness, guilt, hopelessness and irritability start to outweigh and dominate the more positive feelings, these feelings of a low mood may suggest a state of depression. People with depression often lose their usual energy and show a lack of interest in pastimes and activities that once used to excite and please them. In addition, they may lose their appetite, their concentration or their ability to relax or sleep.

Antenatal and postnatal depression

Antenatal depression is a type of depression linked to pregnancy. Women often describe feelings of anxiety and despair associated with their pregnancy rather than feeling joyful and excited.

Postnatal depression (PND) is a type of depression some women experience after having a baby. It can develop within the first six weeks after the birth but may not be apparent until around six months.

It is estimated that around 1 in 10 women experience depression linked to pregnancy and women who have had difficult pregnancies or births are more likely to experience it. This means that women with PGP may be more likely to develop antenatal depression or PND because of the physical problems they are experiencing in addition to the changes involved during pregnancy and birth.

Symptoms of antenatal depression and PND can include:

  • Low mood
  • A feeling of hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty coping with everyday activities
  • Problems sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Tearfulness
  • Hostility or indifference towards your baby and/or partner.

These symptoms are not uncommon initially in all women following the birth of their baby and have often been referred to as ‘baby blues’. However, if symptoms persist, you may be experiencing PND.

It is important to seek help early from your GP or health visitor as antenatal depression and PND are treatable and the sooner they are recognised, the sooner you can start to feel better. Treatment is likely to be in the form of antidepressant medication and talking therapies, either counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Some women who have had difficult and traumatic births go on to experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD is an anxiety disorder. It can develop immediately after a stressful or traumatic event such as a difficult birth or it can occur weeks, months or even years later.

Symptoms can include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Vivid flashbacks
  • Intrusive thoughts and images
  • Intense distress at reminders of the trauma you have experienced
  • Avoidance of activities
  • A feeling of panic
  • Physical sensations of pain, sweating and nausea.

PTSD can be successfully treated but it is important to seek advice from your GP if you are experiencing these symptoms. Treatments can include ‘watched waiting’ under the care of your GP (waiting to see if symptoms improve on their own), psychological treatments including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitisation, reprocessing therapy (EMDR), and/or specific antidepressant medication.

Further information about the symptoms and treatment of PND and PTSD:

The Mind charity provides information and support to anyone experiencing emotional or psychological problems.

The Pandas Foundation offer advice and support to women with pre and post natal depression.

The Samaritans run a 24 hour a day helpline providing someone to talk to, you do not have to be feeling suicidal.

Many thanks to Dr. Liz Ryan, a Relationship and Psychosexual Therapist, who wrote much of the text provided above and also these linked subjects as outlined within our website.

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The Pelvic Partnership consists of volunteers who have had pelvic girdle pain (PGP) and wish to support other women. We aim to pass on information based on both research and the experience of other women with PGP. We are not medical professionals and cannot offer medical advice and the information we provide should not take the place of advice and guidance from your own health-care providers. Material on this site is provided for information and support purposes only.

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