Britney Spears Opened Up About Her Past Experience with Perinatal Depression
Britney Spears announced that she's expecting a baby with her fiancé Sam Asghari in a recent Instagram post. The mom of two first revealed she'd long wanted to expand her family during her conservatorship testimony in June 2021, in which she shared that she'd been forced to keep an IUD implanted in her body to prevent pregnancy. Now, she's shared the happy news with fans and opened up about her past experience with perinatal depression.
Alongside a photo of a pink teacup and roses, Spears joked in her caption that she thought she was "food pregnant" before a pregnancy test confirmed she is, in fact, expecting a baby. It's unclear how far along she is in her pregnancy, but she did note that she plans to keep things a little more private this time around to avoid unwanted paparazzi attention — something that plagued the young mom when she was pregnant with her sons Sean Preston and Jayden James in 2005 and 2006, respectively.
"I obviously won't be going out as much due to the paps getting their money 💴 shot of me 📸 like they unfortunately already have," she wrote. "it's hard because when I was pregnant I had perinatal depression … I have to say it is absolutely horrible 😔 … women didn't talk about it back then … some people considered it dangerous if a woman complained like that with a baby inside her," continued Spears. "but now women talk about it everyday … thank Jesus we don't have to keep that pain a reserved proper secret 🤫 😬😬😬."
This is the first time Spears has publicly discussed having perinatal depression, and may also be the first you've heard about the condition. Keep scrolling for more information on the signs and causes of perinatal depression, plus how it's typically treated.
What is perinatal depression?
Perinatal depression is a mood disorder characterized by extreme sadness, anxiety, and fatigue that can occur both during pregnancy and in the first year postpartum, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The term encompasses both prenatal depression, which occurs during pregnancy, and postpartum depression, which occurs after the baby is born. (Related: What You Should Know About Supporting Your Mental Health Before and During Pregnancy)
One in seven women who become pregnant experience perinatal depression, making it one of the most common medical complications during pregnancy and postpartum, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Still, as the pop icon pointed out in her post, mental health conditions — especially those experienced during what "should" be considered an exciting, hopeful time — are often shrouded in shame and stigma, leading many people to remain silent about the condition.
What are the signs of perinatal depression?
In addition to the feelings of extreme sadness, anxiety, and fatigue, those with perinatal depression frequently experience low energy and moods, irritability, difficulty sleeping or concentrating, an abnormal appetite, and aches and pains that make carrying out daily tasks difficult, according to the NIMH. It lasts longer and is more severe than the "baby blues," a mild mood condition that impacts people in the first two weeks after giving birth due to the sudden, overwhelming responsibilities of caring for a baby, according to the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP). If the "baby blues" don't subside or get worse for a new mom, the AAP notes that they might be experiencing postpartum depression. (Read more: Subtle Signs of Postpartum Depression You Shouldn't Ignore)
What causes perinatal depression?
Perinatal depression can be caused by genetic or environmental factors, such as stress and the physical and emotional demands of pregnancy and caring for a newborn, as well as hormonal changes that occur during and after pregnancy, notes the NIMH. Those who have a personal or family history of perinatal depression, like Spears, are at higher risk during and after subsequent pregnancies.
Pregnancy and the postnatal period can be challenging, which doesn't help matters. "It's 'supposed' to be a happy glowing time — but not everyone feels happy and glowing," Birdie Meyer, R.N., the coordinator of the Perinatal Mood Disorders Program at Indiana University Health, previously told Shape. "Overnight, you lose all freedom, all control of your schedule, and everything is new."
How can you treat perinatal depression?
For those who might be experiencing emotional changes or physical symptoms that could be related to perinatal mood disorders, asking for help — whether by speaking with a doctor and/or seeking the assistance of family and friends during these transitional periods — is nothing to be ashamed of, Meyer previously told Shape. "We have seasons of giving and seasons of receiving in life," she said. "When you're a new mom you're in the season of receiving and there is nothing shameful about asking for help."
Individuals dealing with perinatal depression may also consider seeking therapy. While the ACOG recommends ob-gyns screen women for depression and anxiety during and after pregnancy, you may have to reach out yourself if you're experiencing symptoms. An organization called Postpartum Support International also has resources to help parents find providers who can treat them. (Related: The Pregnancy and Postpartum Mental Health Issues No One Is Talking About)
As for Spears, she's already planning out strategies for managing her emotional and physical health during pregnancy. "This time I will be doing yoga 🧘♀️ every day !!! Spreading lots of joy and love 💕 !!!" she wrote. Here's to Spears enjoying a safe, peaceful, and healthy pregnancy this time around.