Pregnancy should be a time of joy, but for 1 in 10 women depression while pregnant is the harsh reality they face. You should be aware of the symptoms, risk factors, and the fact that there are treatments available.
Symptoms of depression while pregnant
No two women will suffer in exactly the same way but they will have some of the following in common:
- Experiencing a low mood for 2 weeks or more
- Feeling a sense of guilt
- Having a low supply of energy
- Feel like eating less or eating more
- Feeling a sense of hopelessness
- Less interest in what’s happening around them
- Lack of enjoyment in activities once enjoyed.
- Having thoughts about death or suicide.
- Sleeping a lot more or not sleeping enough.
Depression while pregnant is often associated with anxiety. Here are some of the symptoms of anxiety that you might experience:
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Poor concentration
- Feeling restless
- Muscle pains
- Excessive worry.
Risk factors of depression in pregnancy
Certain conditions predict whether a woman might be more likely to develop depression while pregnant.
- If there are problems or complications during the pregnancy.
- Women who undergo fertility treatments are at risk due to the ongoing stress of the treatment and the fear of losing the baby.
- Expectant mothers who live alone (because they are single, divorced or separated) are at risk.
- Young mothers under the age of 20 are at risk due to enormity of the responsibility they are faced with.
- Those with a history of premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD).
- Women who have a history of abuse.
- Those with poor social or family support.
- Women who already have more than 3 children.
- Women who feel indifferent about the pregnancy.
- Experiencing stressful life events during pregnancy.
Pregnancy can be a difficult time even if you have excellent family support, a loving partner and a secure financial situation. It is no surprise then, that so many pregnant women become depressed when under stress of some kind.
Risks of untreated depression in pregnancy
If depression goes untreated during a pregnancy, which happens in over 80% of cases, some of the following could happen?
- The patient may end up having a C section
- Attachment problems (the mother may find it difficult to bond with her baby)
- Substance and alcohol use
- 50% develop Post Partum Depression
- Low birthweight of baby
- Premature birth
- Low APGAR score (assessment of baby at birth)
- Pregnancy termination
- Baby can adapt poorly outside the womb
- Mother can neglect her health
Fortunately there is help available to women who find themselves depressed at this sensitive time.
Talking about your problems can really help, especially if you have no one you can confide in at home. Psychotherapy has been known to help many people who suffer from depression. This is the first port of call for those who would rather not use medication.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is particularly good for helping with anxiety and negative thoughts. CBT helps to rewire the way we think–turning negative thoughts into positive ones.
Psychotherapy really helps you to feel that you are not alone and so could be very beneficial for single or divorced mothers in this position.
This is an eastern medicine which involves placing needles gently on certain points in the body to bring about particular therapeutic affects. Acupuncture is well-known for its powerful healing benefits for people suffering from depression. It is also a natural therapy and poses no risk to the fetus.
Recently, a study revealed its results, announcing that Bright Light Therapy is beneficial for all types of depression and not just seasonal depression. It demands little time and effort to sit in front of a light box for 20-40 minutes each morning to allow your body to absorb light. Light therapy has about a 60% success rate in treating depression.
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids
Studies have found Omega 3 to be beneficial in the treatment of depression. It is best to buy a good quality brand with a high percentage of omega 3.
You should check with a doctor before taking anything, but it has been said that many antidepressants are safe to take during pregnancy. It has also been found that in many cases where women stopped taking antidepressants in pregnancy their depression returned during the course of the pregnancy.
Depression can have a devastating affect on an expectant mother. Pregnant women are under huge pressure today to provide for and look after their families, typically while continuing to work outside the home. It’s little wonder so many become depressed. It is really important that symptoms are not ignored.
Doctors and family members are there to help. Get a support team on board if you are feeling depressed. Reach out and you will soon be relieved at how much better you will be feeling.
For your own sake and that of your baby it is your right to seek help. If you act now you will be feeling well again, long before your baby arrives. Then you will sail through the months and years ahead as a parent.