- Britney Spears has revealed that she’s pregnant with her first child with fiancé Sam Asghari.
- On Instagram, Spears also shared her experience of perinatal depression during her previous pregnancies.
- Depression is a common complication during pregnancy, believed to affect up to 1 in 7 birthing parents.
Britney Spears has barely been out of the news for the last 12 months, following her legal battles over her 13-year conservatorship. During the court proceedings, Spears revealed that she had been forced to take birth control, which denied her the third child she longed for.
But this week brings happy news via Spears’ Instagram account. Spears seemed to imply that she and her fiancé Sam Asghari are expecting a baby. (She refers to him as her husband, but the two are not legally married.) “So I got a pregnancy test… and uhhhhh well… I am having a baby,” Spears wrote.
In her post, Spears, mom to Sean, 16, and Jayden, 15, touched on her previous experiences of pregnancy, including her mental health struggles.
“It’s hard because when I was pregnant I had perinatal depression … I have to say it is absolutely horrible,” she wrote. “Women didn’t talk about it back then … some people considered it dangerous if a woman complained like that with a baby inside her … but now women talk about it everyday.”
What is Perinatal Depression?
Perinatal depression is one of the most common complications of pregnancy and after childbirth, affecting as many as 1 in 7 women, says the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
“Perinatal” refers to pregnancy and up to one year postpartum, explains Paige Bellenbaum, LMSW, Founding Director of The Motherhood Center in New York. “Since the pandemic began, this number has been cited as high as 50 to 70% of all perinatal women,” she adds.
Common signs of perinatal depression are feeling hopeless and/or helpless most of the day, every day; feeling shame, guilt, or like a failure; feeling little to no joy in the things that usually bring you joy; having a difficult time making a decision; not feeling connected to or bonded with the baby; not being able to sleep when the baby is sleeping or being cared for or sleeping too much; not having an appetite or eating a lot more than usual; and having thoughts of wanting to escape or harming yourself.
Preventing and Treating Perinatal Depression
It’s crucial to treat perinatal depression as quickly as possible to protect the health of the birthing parent and their baby. Studies show that it can lead to premature birth and low birth weight, plus more behavior problems, lower cognitive functioning, and increased risk of developing psychiatric disorders later in childhood.
As with depression in general, many prevention methods are recommended by health care practitioners, including physical activity, infant sleep training, yoga, and medication—and often a combination of these. Counseling is most effective, reducing risks by 39%, says the U.S. Preventive Task Force.
“Talk therapy with a maternal mental health specialist can be a very effective treatment intervention for women experiencing mild to moderate perinatal depression,” says Bellenbaum. “Being able to process the hard parts of motherhood and the experiences we ourselves bring into this massive transition can help a lot.”
According to Bellenbaum, the most commonly used therapeutic modalities are Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).
People who have experienced depression previously at any time during their life are at a higher risk of developing it during the perinatal period, Bellenbaum adds. For these people, it’s even more important to be aware of the warning signs and seek help at the first opportunity.
Mental Health During Pregnancy
It’s common for women to spend most of their time focusing on the physical aspects of pregnancy and the arrival of the baby, and not enough time focusing on their own mental health. “Yet perinatal mood and anxiety disorders (PMADs)—which includes perinatal depression—are the number one complication associated with childbirth,” Bellenbaum warns.
She believes that all expecting couples and birthing parents should be made aware of the prevalence of PMADs and the signs and symptoms.
“It’s particularly important for partners to recognize the signs, because it can be very difficult for a pregnant or postpartum woman to understand what is happening to her, or know what to do when she is feeling hopeless and/or helpless,” Bellenbaum explains. “We put so much emphasis on a birth plan, but neglect a mental health plan. Every couple should identify perinatal mental health providers in their community prior to giving birth so that they are armed with resources and options.”
Most importantly, don’t wait for perinatal depression to go away on its own. “It very often doesn’t,” says Bellenbaum. “Seek treatment as soon as you feel any of these symptoms. The good news is that with treatment, everyone can feel better.”
What This Means For You
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