Under the Hood

Understanding Pregnancy Depression: What You Need To Know

Emotional upheavals that occur during the course of pregnancy can make some mothers-to-be more prone to depression than others. This is unlike postpartum depression because perinatal depression appears while bearing the fetus. However, it comes with all the regular symptoms of clinical depression, hence the condition can be easily identified and treated the same way. 

About 14 to 23 percent of pregnant women exhibit at least a few symptoms of depression, as per data revealed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and American Psychiatric Association. But unfortunately if not addressed earlier, it could continue post birth and could potentially result in neglect of the child. 

Misconception Stands in the Way of Treatment

Dr. Gabby Farkas, medical director of Pearl Behavioral Health based in New York, who treats mental health issues of such women, said that depression is confusing to women since people believe that pregnancy is supposed to be the happiest time in a woman’s life. This is not always the case because women experience a whole spectrum of emotions, Farkas told Healthline. 

This negative perception often comes in the way of getting the help women need. Therefore, it should be noted that women experience a range of feelings toward themselves and others during this trying time. They could display more sensitivity to things around them. For example, a disorganized room or sudden cancellation of plans can put them on edge. 

Similar Symptoms to Usual Pregancy Bodily Changes

Miniscule events can lead to crying, shouting or fighting and other emotional outbursts. Hormonal changes during a pregnancy alters the brain chemistry of women and possibly disturbs their emotional balance. Most commonly, it is the thyroid hormone. If timely intervention is provided to them, they could be in better shape to look after their children and themselves. It is important to address perinatal depression without stigma and make the expectant mothers comfortable enough to discuss their mood swings in the open. 

Oftentimes, the symptoms are similar to the symptoms that accompany a pregnancy, hence it can be mistakenly dismissed as a nonissue. When in fact, the symptoms could be indicative of something deeper such as depression. Disturbed sleeping patterns, change in libido, less energy and appetite are symptoms of depression as well, as per Mayo Clinic. 

pregnant Silent miscarriage is a condition that occurs when the fetus stopped developing or died but the placenta and embryonic tissue remain. Pixabay

Symptoms of Perinatal Depression

A negligent attitude to self-care and prenatal care during pregnancy is a telling sign of depression. Frequent crying, fatigue and limited interaction with people are other usual symptoms of depression that people experience, whether pregnant or not. General lack of enjoyment derived from regular activities, which is instead replaced by a low feeling of inadequacy, is also a telling sign. 

Another symptom is a feeling of excessive anxiety and dullness about the baby or not feeling up to the mark about herself as well as the motherhood in the offing. This is sometimes called poor fetal attachment. If a woman has not gained weight and has a decrease in appetite, it is also considered a sign.  

Smoking and drinking are also other detrimental factors to the well-being of pregnant women and their unborn children. Lastly, suicidal thoughts are one of the main determinants of perinatal depression. The risk factors that lead to a diagnosis of depression include domestic violence, trouble during previous pregnancies, lack of social support, an unwanted pregnancy and stressful life events.  

The Various Treatments

Talking to a counselor is the best option since it has been proven effective in treating perinatal depression. Talk therapy can also lead to cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a structured approach to dealing with negative thoughts and actions. 

Being in the outdoors and doing the amount of exercise as recommended by your health practitioner is advised. Acupuncture aimed at reducing depression was proven useful and benefited 63 percent of women, according to one study by Stanford University. 

Dealing with depression is far worse for the baby and mother when compared to the side effects of taking antidepressants. Doctors generally screen pregnant women to check if they might be depressed but it is not always detected. 

However, taking antidepressants during pregnancy is controversial for the side effects have been documented. One meta-analysis of 14 studies found more risk of preterm delivery with maternal antidepressant usage. But it remains unclear whether depression or other independent factors contributed to preterm delivery in those cases. 

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