Pregnancy is claimed to be one of the happiest times of each woman’s life but in reality, as much as 10 to 20 percent of women struggle with depression during pregnancy. Although it was long believed that pregnancy hormones help prevent depression, it is actually the other way around. Hormonal changes during pregnancy are not to blame for depression, however, they most certainly make pregnant women more vulnerable to this mental disorder.
Depression in pregnant women can be treated and should be treated because it does not only affect psychological well-being but physical health too. Unfortunately, it often goes undetected because its symptoms can be easily mistaken with fatigue, sleep difficulties and moodiness that are experienced by many pregnant women who do not have any mental problems. However, depression is a medical condition which does not get better on its own. On the contrary, depression that is left untreated can have a number of harmful effects on both the mother and her baby.
Pregnant women who suffer from depression may not able to take care for themselves as they should and may not eat and sleep properly. They are also more likely to engage in risky behavior such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes and taking drugs which can seriously harm the developing baby and even lead to premature labor or miscarriage. Depression during pregnancy has been also shown to increase the risk of depression after birth (postpartum depression).
What causes depression in pregnant women is not exactly understood but several factors may put you at increased risk. They include personal or family history of depression or other mental illnesses, mixed feelings about pregnancy or unwanted pregnancy, age – younger women are more likely to develop depression, stressful life events, relationship problems, living alone, financial problems, complications of pregnancy and treatments for infertility. However, depression can also affect pregnant women who do not have any risk factors.
It is crucial to seek help if developing symptoms of depression. Feeling low from time to time does not necessarily mean that you are depressed, however, feelings of sadness, unhappiness and/or helplessness that persist more than two weeks indicate depression. Other symptoms may include lack of interest in things you used to enjoy, inability to sleep or excessive sleeping, changes in appetite, difficulty concentrating, increased tiredness and frequent thoughts of death or suicide. Seek professional help immediately if you have suicidal thoughts or if you are unable to perform your everyday tasks and keep in mind that it is not a sign of weakness. Depression is a medical condition which requires treatment just like any other, while your willingness to do something about it indicates that you are prepared to take the necessary measures to protect your baby’s and your own health.
Several treatments are available for pregnant women with depression and your health care provider will help you choose the best option. Treatment of depression in pregnant women varies greatly from one woman to another and depends on its severity and some other factors such as overall health status but many women need antidepressants to manage depression. Like any other medications, antidepressants pose certain risks for the baby but the studies have shown that they are extremely low. It is much more dangerous not to receive treatment for depression during pregnancy.