Pregnancy is usually portrayed as a happy time, for both the mother and the rest of the family. Sure, you may feel ill or uncomfortable physically, but you expect to be in good spirits. Most mothers worry about dealing with post-partum depression after the birth, not during the pregnancy. Nevertheless, some women do experience depression during the pregnancy, called prenatal or antepartum depression. Take a look at a few things you need to know about depression during pregnancy:
It Can Affect Your Baby
For the 18% of women who experience depressive symptoms during pregnancy, it's more than just a personal health issue. Depression has lasting effects on the baby as well. Depression is associated with brain abnormalities in pre-school age children. Researchers found that children whose mothers were depressed during pregnancy had a thinner cortex than was usually seen at that age. They also found an association between depression and abnormal white matter in the brain's frontal area.
More immediately, depression in mothers is associated with negative birth outcomes, like low birth weight, prematurity, and low scores on the APGAR tests doctors use to evaluate the baby's health after birth.
It Can Be Hard to Diagnose
Unfortunately, it's easy to miss the diagnosis of depression during pregnancy. Many of the symptoms of depression are dismissed by the mother, her family, and even medical professionals as just normal side effects of pregnancy. Symptoms like fatigue or sleeplessness, appetite changes, and mood swings are associated with both pregnancy and depression. Mothers may hesitate to mention other symptoms, like hopelessness, apathy, or even suicidal thoughts because they feel pressure to appear happy.
When considering whether you might be suffering from depression during pregnancy, it can help to consider whether you have risk factors for depression. Pregnancy can often be a catalyst for many things that can trigger depression, like marital conflict, financial or professional difficulties, health problems, and stress or trauma. Young mothers, mothers with little money or social support, and mothers who already have several children are also at increased risk.
It Can Be Treated
If you're pregnant and experiencing depression symptoms, it's vital to discuss your feelings with your OBGYN. Some mothers believe that depression medications are off limits during pregnancy, so there's no point in bringing up the situation until after the birth when it can be treated. But this is not the case. There are several types of medications, including SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) like Prozac, that are routinely and safely prescribed during pregnancy.
There are also nonmedicinal approaches to treating depression, like psychotherapy, dietary changes, and acupuncture. You and your OBGYN can work together to find a course of treatment that's safe for both you and the baby.
Your OBGYN is there to help both you and your baby have a healthy pregnancy and birth. Don't hesitate to mention symptoms that seem unusual or worrying.
Click here for info about dealing with depression while pregnant.