Depression During Pregnancy

in Understanding Depression

Pregnant Depression

We often hear about postpartum depression, that is, depression that occurs in women who have recently given birth. Less is discussed about depression during pregnancy, however.

Perhaps this is because many of the symptoms of depression during pregnancy are easy to dismiss because they are seen as simply part of being pregnant.

There are several terms used to describe depression in a woman who is pregnant or a woman who has recently given birth.

These terms include maternal depression, prenatal depression, postnatal depression, perinatal depression and postpartum depression.

The terms postnatal and postpartum refer to the time after the birth of the baby, while the term prenatal refers to the time before the baby is born.

“Peri” means “around,” so perinatal depression refers to both the pregnancy and the time after delivery, usually to the last month of pregnancy and the weeks just after the baby is born.

According to the March of Dimes, as many as 1 in 5 pregnant women experience symptoms of depression during pregnancy.

The symptoms are similar to the symptoms of depression in general and may be mild, moderate or severe.

In some cases, a woman who suffers from depression during pregnancy has had a history of depression or depression may run in her family.

In other cases, the reasons for the depression are not completely clear.

Question Think SmallIs It Depression Or “Just Part Of Being Pregnant”?

Many symptoms of depression during pregnancy can appear to be “just part of being pregnant.” During pregnancy, a woman’s body undergoes many changes.

She may experience mood swings related to hormonal shifts, changes in sleeping habits and lifestyle changes related to preparing for the new baby’s arrival.

Because of these and other changes, such as weight gain and morning sickness, most women experience symptoms like fatigue, irritability, sadness and anxiety to some extent during their pregnancies.

Symptoms like fatigue and low mood can also be caused by anemia or a thyroid problem, which are both common during pregnancy.

However, if another medical condition is ruled out and depression symptoms that interfere with a woman’s ability to function persist, she may be experiencing clinical depression that requires treatment.

Prenatal and postnatal depression symptoms include feeling sad, difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of interest in things that once brought pleasure (including lack of excitement about the baby), difficulty concentrating and irritability.

A woman may also feel guilty about her symptoms, especially if she is less than enthusiastic about being pregnant or caring for a child.

Other symptoms of depression during pregnancy include restlessness, loss of energy, crying for no apparent reason and changes in appetite.

RiskUntreated Depression During Pregnancy Carries Serious Risks

If a pregnant woman is depressed, it is very important that she gets treatment as soon as possible. If prenatal or post natal depression signs and symptoms are ignored, the consequences can be significant.

For example, poor prenatal care or insufficient weight gain during pregnancy, which can both be caused by depression, put mother and baby at risk for health problems during and after delivery.

Women who are depressed during pregnancy are also at higher risk of developing a dangerous type of high blood pressure called preeclampsia.

Depression can result in poor eating habits or the use of alcohol or drugs, which pose obvious additional health risks to both the pregnant woman and her unborn child.

Depressed mothers have difficulty bonding with their child, and studies suggest that babies born to mothers who suffer from depression during pregnancy are more likely to be born prematurely.

These babies are also at risk for low birth weight, and they may be more irritable, inattentive and less active than other babies.

Medical DiseaseWhat Treatments Are Available For Depression During Pregnancy?

Depression that occurs in pregnant women can be treated in much the same way as any depression.

Specific issues related to the pregnancy as well as other emotional issues can be addressed in therapy or counseling, and many pregnant women who are depressed find that this is the only treatment they need.

For some women, medication may be also considered.

While concerns about taking medication during pregnancy are common, there are some antidepressants that have been used to treat depression in pregnant women without any known effects on the fetus.

However, since some antidepressant drugs do pose a risk to the baby, it is very important to discuss medication options with a medical professional who has significant experience treating depression in pregnant women.

Depression bookMany of the depression treatment options discussed in End Your Depression are appropriate for pregnant women and for women who have recently given birth.

In addition, End Your Depression provides an overview of perinatal and postpartum depression that can help pregnant women and their loved ones understand how being pregnant can cause or contribute to the development of depression symptoms.

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