Depression during Pregnancy

A psychological imbalance in pregnant women is most often overlooked as a natural part of pregnancy. However, depression during pregnancy must be considered serious, else it can affect the mother and baby in unexpected ways.

Last Updated: 22 October 2020

Depression during Pregnancy
Depression during Pregnancy

Pregnancy is supposed to be a joyous phase in a woman’s life for the overall well-being of both the mother and the growing baby. Ironically, depression during pregnancy hits about 14-23% of all pregnant women. While pregnant women can make themselves aware of depression symptoms during pregnancy and coping up mechanisms, it is also the responsibility of the immediate family and the society as a whole to support women in their pregnancy journey.

What is depression during pregnancy?

Depression is a psychological illness which creates a constant grief and a general disinterest in about everything. Depression during pregnancy, also referred to as antepartum depression, is a kind of depression which specifically affects women who are pregnant. Some women get over it soon after the birth of the baby while in some it continues as postpartum depression.

What are the symptoms of depression during pregnancy?

Watch out for the following signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy which persists for more than two weeks:

·         Persistent sadness from within which is difficult to overcome

·         Loss of interest in day-to-day activities

·         Self-destructive thoughts like remaining hungry or not taking self care

·         Being withdrawn from communications with others

·         Feeling heavy at the heart, emotional or sudden crying for no apparent reasons

·         Anxiety about pregnancy and wellness of the baby

·         New addictions like smoking, drinking alcohol or drugs

·         Excessive eating or not feeling to eat anything at all

·         Sleeplessness or sleeping lethargically for several hours

·         Feeling of bereavement or loneliness

·         Suicidal thoughts in extreme cases

Some of the symptoms may be common pregnancy symptoms, such as, not feeling like eating anything or sleeplessness which should not be confused with symptoms of depression. If these symptoms are accompanied by two or more of the other symptoms, it is more likely to take shape of depression during pregnancy.

What causes depression during pregnancy?

Much similar to depression during other phases of life, depression during pregnancy is in general caused by stressful life situations. In addition, the following reasons may lead to depression during pregnancy:

·         Hormonal imbalances of pregnancy hormones may alter the brain chemicals causing a mental illness

·         Previous depression can reoccur during pregnancy

·         Family histories of depression during pregnancy

·         Unplanned pregnancy which happens soon after the birth of the previous child, because of rape, or during the middle of an important career assignment can cause depression in the pregnant woman

·         While expecting a rainbow baby, that is, pregnancy after the loss of the previous baby during pregnancy or soon after birth.

·         Anxiety about the baby’s health and development, especially if a pregnancy complication has been diagnosed

·         Anxiety about the change in shape of the body

·         Feeling uncared or unloved during pregnancy

·         Stress about financial security, loss of job following delivery, handling labor pain or looking after the baby

How depression during pregnancy affects the mother and the baby?

·         Research studies show that babies growing in the womb can feel how their mom’s emotions and thoughts. A depressed mother may pass on the anxiety and sadness to her developing baby.

·         Depressed pregnant women lack the interest to make preparatory arrangements to welcome the baby home like making a nursery, buying a car seat, learning about baby care or may tend to skip antenatal classes.

·         Over-eating, smoking or substance abuse because of depression during pregnancy can negatively affect the health of the baby.

·         Skipping meals, vitamin supplements or regular doctor visits during pregnancy can be common among depressed pregnant women which can in turn be dangerous to the growth and development of the baby.

·         As a result, it may lead to premature birth, low-birth weight, low APGAR score or developmental abnormalities in the unborn baby.

·         Depression during pregnancy carries the risk of getting continued after childbirth as postpartum depression which may interfere with breastfeeding, regular vaccination schedules and taking care of the baby.

How to cope up with pregnancy depression?

While there isn’t a single medication to treat depression during depression, treatment and support is available.

·         First of all, either the pregnant woman must come out to share her depressed state to her healthcare provider or the doctor must perform screening tests to all pregnant women to identify depression in pregnant women.

·         Counseling and psychotherapy have been known to help women recover from depression in pregnancy.

·         Alternative healing methods such as acupuncture, meditation and yoga have proved to give relief from depression.

·         In severe cases, medications like antidepressants might be necessary and the usage of such medicines have to be discussed in detail with the doctor because they are known to cause developmental defects in the baby.

·         Online support groups can be of help to some women.      

 

 

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