Pregnancy takes a lot of physical and emotional strength. Your body goes through several changes which also include hormonal fluctuations. The emotional changes that a woman goes through impacts the way she feels about herself and the world around her. You must have heard about the postpartum depression (feeling of extreme sadness post birth) but did you know that many women also suffer from depression during the course of pregnancy, which is also known as prenatal depression. It is essential for pregnant women to be aware about their health condition and reach out for help if they are suffering from consistent low moods. You should know about the signs, symptoms and treatments of it, so that you can reach out for help at the right time and keep pregnancy blues at bay, whether it be first trimester depression or third trimester depression.
Depression is a mood disorder that is closely associated with persistent feelings that everything has been irreversibly lost, which in turn, gives rise to feelings of sadness and loss of interest in daily activities and life in general. The mental disorder is twice as common in women than men, and it usually peaks during the reproductive years of a woman as a result of emotional upheavals caused due to frequent hormonal changes. And, since hormonal changes are quite drastic and an integral part of pregnant women, depression tends to become more common among such women.
In collaboration with The Channel 46, Dr. Swetha M.P., Consultant – Obstetrician & Gynaecologist, Motherhood Hospitals, talks about symptoms, causes, risk factors, and treatment for depression and how to deal with depression while pregnant.
Causes Of Prenatal Depression
No one exactly knows the cause of depression but when it comes to pregnancy, hormones have a significant role to play in it. Hormones play a major role in controlling your brain chemistry and moods. Depression is also believed to be associated with genetics. If anyone in your family had this condition, you are more susceptible to it. Would-be moms are not at fault for going through emotional rollercoasters but knowing the signs and symptoms will help them get the right kind of treatment at the right time.
12 Common Pregnancy Depression Symptoms
Major signs of depression include a consistent low mood. There are a lot of symptoms that you feel during depression which not only affect your own mind and body but your surroundings as well.
- Emotional health – You will be feeling low in pregnancy, overwhelmed and hopeless and these feelings won’t seem to go away.
- Problems with sleeping – Depression affects your sleeping patterns. You may have to deal with the consequences of insomnia.
- Mood swings – Mood swings and emotional instability are two of the most common symptoms of depression.
- Anxiety – You will feel as if you are worried about everything. Self-doubt and inability to perform tasks correctly.
- Appetite changes – You will feel changes in your eating and hunger pattern.
- Withdrawal from family and friends – You would not feel good about interacting with your loved ones.
- Loss of interest in your hobbies – You would not want to do things that you once enjoyed.
- Being unsure of motherhood – Low less esteem and feelings of inadequacy about becoming a mother.
- Suicidal thoughts – Pregnant women with depression may nurther thoughts of committing suicide.
- Excessive or poor weight gain – Lack of a healthy diet required during pregnancy and no attention to fitness often leads to unhealthy weight gain or loss. This, in turn, creates negative feelings.
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits – Continuing with healthy lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking or using drugs, or taking to these habits despite being pregnant may also indicate a mood disorder.
- Lack of proper prenatal care – Mood swings and emotional instability may make a pregnant women incapable of taking care of her physical and emotional wellbeing during this critical time.
Does Depression During The Course Of Pregnancy Affect Your Baby?
Some women would not seek treatment for depression during the course of pregnancy as they believe that emotional instability is common during that time. Certain other prominent symptoms of pregnancy like low energy levels, lack of appetite, changed sleeping pattern are also prominent symptoms of depression. Hence, pregnant women are often unable to understand that the reason behind these symptoms can also be related to their compromised mental health. Even if they do realise, they often decide to ignore it and shove it under the carpet since it is still such a taboo subject. They nurture opinions like they will get over these worrying symptoms with time, completely devoid of medical help. Hence, depression largely remains undiagnosed among pregnant women too. Like always, there is more emphasis on maintaining good physical health for the sake of thee unborn foetus, and no attention at all to mental health.
But one thing that they don’t realise is that they are putting their baby’s health at risk. Studies have found that untreated depression can lead to pre-term delivery, low birth weight, gestational diabetes and even developmental delays in babies. Such issues can have a snowball effect as your baby grows older. They too can feel emotional instability and learning delays.
3 Treatment Options For Depression During Pregnancy
Depression can have a lot of consequences on your baby’s health. The good thing is that there are a number of treatments available to reduce the risks and brush away the pregnancy blues.
- Non-drug treatments – Many mothers don’t require medication for the treatment of their depression. Doctors suggest them to go for therapies, support groups, lifestyle changes, etc.
- Antidepressants – If the symptoms are a bit serious then your doctor will suggest you to go for antidepressants.
- A Combination Of Therapy & Medication – If the doctor feels that there is a need for both psychotherapy and antidepressants, he/she will probably recommend you to a professional and prescribe you medications that will keep the symptoms of depression under control without harming your unborn child.
Can Depression Be Prevented?
Your hormones and feelings are not in your control but to prevent pregnancy depression you should know about the risk factors of it and seek help accordingly.
8 Possible Risk Factors Of Prenatal Depression
- A family history of depression or any mental health condition.
- Being a single mom or pregnant as a teenager.
- Not having healthy surroundings around you. The people and environment around you play a vital role in influencing your moods.
- Having stressful life circumstances like not being able to maintain the work-life balance, low income, etc.
- Lack of social support, which affects pregnant women emotionally, causing feelings of loneliness, vulnerability, anxiety, among other extreme feelings.
- Extreme stress in life, arising from personal and professional spheres.
- Domestic abuse and violence from the partner or, for that matter, anyone close to her.
- Unplanned pregnancy leads to feelings of unpreparedness, be it physical, emotional, or both, making the pregnancy an unwanted one.
There are a lot of things that you can’t control and the emotional instability you feel during pregnancy is one of them. You don’t have to go through it all alone and there is nothing wrong with seeking help when you need it. Educate yourself about how to deal with depression in pregnancy and take help from your loved ones when you think you need it. Keep the social environment good around you. Remember that the way you feel will affect the health of your baby as well. It is important for you to evaluate your condition and take appropriate treatment for it.
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