Pregnancy is a challenging phase of a women’s life. It is common for women to experience postpartum depression after they give birth to their babies.
But there are also cases where a woman goes through depression during pregnancy. We’ll discuss in this article the signs and causes of prenatal depression in women.
Signs of prenatal depression
Postpartum depression is something that many women go through after giving birth. However, according to The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14 to 23 percent of women struggle with what is known as prenatal depression.
It is mainly caused by hormonal changes coupled with different stress-inducing factors. Even if a pregnancy is planned, a woman may be overwhelmed by the physical changes she experiences during this time.
Fretting over the future and the changes that her new role as a mother brings may add to her stress. Complications in pregnancy can also intensify emotions and result in prenatal depression.
Anxiety, persistent sadness, sleep-related problems, and feelings of worthlessness are some of the signs of prenatal depression to watch out for.
If left untreated, prenatal depression can lead an expecting mother to stop caring for herself and her baby. This poses a grave risk to both. The risks that accompany prenatal depression make it very important for affected mothers to have immediate medical attention.
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Other signs of prenatal depression are as follows:
- trouble sleeping
- isolation or withdrawal from family and friends
- disinterest in activities once enjoyed
- excessive worrying and irrational thoughts
- appetite problems
- feelings of hopelessness, emptiness, or guilt
- excessive mood swings
- loss of interest in sexual intimacy
- gastrointestinal problems, headaches, and muscle aches
In severe cases of prenatal depression, a woman can have thoughts of harming themselves and their unborn baby.
Signs of prenatal depression can affect you anytime while you are pregnant. On the other hand, postpartum depression occurs after you give birth to your baby.
Keep in mind that depression and baby blues are different. The baby blues usually go away on their own after two to three weeks from delivery.
Meanwhile, postpartum and prenatal depression cannot be resolved without treatment. It’s always better to consult a doctor when you are experiencing any signs of prenatal depression.
Lifestyle changes can treat symptoms of depression at times. However, if signs of prenatal depression do not go away with changing lifestyle, your doctor may recommend therapy and medications to treat your condition.
What causes prenatal depression?
Many factors can cause depression in pregnancy. Prenatal depression can be a result of hormonal changes that affect the balance of chemical levels in the brain.
A woman can also feel anxious and extremely sad whenever she notices the changes happening to her body. It may lead to a feeling of discomfort during pregnancy and may result in depression.
In addition, financial problems can also lead to excessive worrying about the new responsibilities brought by motherhood.
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Any pregnant woman can experience prenatal depression, but the risk of having this condition is more common if:
- You have a family history of anxiety disorders, panic disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, postpartum depression, and other mental health illness.
- The baby you are carrying has a health problem.
- You are dealing with events if your life that brings too much stress, such as divorce, financial problems, stressful work environment, and health issues.
- You had infertility problems before you got pregnant.
- Your partner is not supportive and caring.
- Your pregnancy is unplanned.
- Carrying twins or triplets
- Lack of support from friends and family during pregnancy
You have a higher risk and may not be able to prevent depression, both prenatal and postpartum if you have a family history of mood disorders and other mental health issues. It is important to talk to your healthcare provider and ask for advice about the signs to look for in this condition.
Tell your doctor if you have signs of prenatal depression. Inform them about your symptoms and when and how often they occur. They may recommend you meet a psychologist, therapist, or mental health counselor to complete the evaluation of your condition. These specialists will give you recommendations on how to treat your symptoms.
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Can prenatal depression extend to postpartum?
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Depression during pregnancy, when left untreated, increases the risk of postpartum depression. Your untreated depression can lead you to stop caring for your baby and yourself throughout the stages of pregnancy until you give birth.
That is why when you notice any signs of prenatal depression, consult your doctor and ask for help. They will recommend treatment options for you, depending on the severity of your condition.
According to Cleveland Clinic, some of these treatment procedures are:
- Psychotherapy – in this process, you are encouraged to talk about your emotions and thought processes. Your therapist can help you develop better ways to cope with your overwhelming feelings and manage mood changes.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy – your therapist will help you develop better-thinking patterns. In this therapy, you will learn to react positively to certain situations that are causing you stress and depression.
- Interpersonal therapy – this treatment therapy can help ease the feeling of isolation. It allows you to interact with other people, develop positive relationships and get support from social groups.
- Medications – your doctor may recommend medications for depression that are safe to take during pregnancy. Keep in mind not to take any medications without the guidance of your healthcare provider to avoid causing harm to yourself and your baby.
It is essential to seek medical help right away when you experience any signs of prenatal depression. Moreover, if you have thoughts of hurting your unborn baby or yourself, get emergency medical help as soon as possible.
Untreated depression can affect the baby too. When you are depressed, it can be difficult to take care of yourself. Women who are experiencing prenatal depression sometimes resort to making unhealthy choices, like drinking alcoholic beverages or smoking.
These unhealthy activities may impose danger to your unborn baby. In severe cases of depression, pregnant women may physically harm themselves and the baby. It is always better to get treatment for depression right away.
How to deal with depression while pregnant?
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Avoiding isolation and connecting with your loved ones can help you manage prenatal depression better. Their support can give you more hope and help you deal with depression positively.
You can share your concerns with your parents, siblings, friends, and partner. Or you may opt to ask your doctor if they can recommend you a support group. Interacting with other people can impact your mood and emotions positively.
Moreover, you have to prioritize your health above all things. Take prenatal vitamins, have light exercise regularly, eat nutritious food, and try to get enough sleep.
A healthy body goes hand-in-hand with a healthy mind. Your physical and mental health are both important to be taken care of whether you are pregnant or not.
In line with this, avoid smoking and drinking alcoholic beverages. That can harm your baby and may result in fetal alcohol syndrome.
Furthermore, keeping up with your schedules for prenatal care is essential. Prepare for your baby’s arrival and take time to learn about their growth and milestones.
Lastly, you can also try meditation to silence irrational thoughts and negative emotions. That can help you manage anxiety and stress. Learning stress management can help you feel better while pregnant.
Additional information from Jobelle Macayan
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