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Understand Depression During Pregnancy Before It Harms Your Baby

Depression During Pregnancy
Depression During Pregnancy 

Depression in pregnancy appears frequently but is confused with stress or hormonal alterations.
 

Pregnancy is supposed to be one of the happiest times in a woman's life, but for many women, this is a time of confusion, fear, stress, and even depression. Some expectant mothers are afraid to admit that they feel depressed or avoid asking for help because they are afraid of feeling judged. 

If you find yourself in such a situation, discuss it as soon as possible with your partner and a healthcare professional, whether or not they are involved in your pregnancy follow-up. 

Depression is a mood disorder that affects 1 in 4 women at some point during their life, so it should come as no surprise that this illness can also be dangerous to the mother and the unborn baby. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), between 14-23% of women will struggle with some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. 

If a pregnant woman has already suffered from depression in the past, if she experiences a lot of anxiety, stress during her pregnancy, if she feels little surrounded, or if she reports difficulties in her marital relationship, she is more at risk of developing depression during pregnancy. Depression in pregnancy is an illness that can be treated and managed; however, it is important to seek help and support first. 

What Is Depression? 

Depression is a mood disorder characterized by deep sadness and affective disturbances. It lasts for weeks and globally affects the state of the person. Anyone is sensitive to suffering from this disease, but it is not always easy to detect it. 

Depression In Pregnancy

Symptoms Of Pregnancy

Depression during pregnancy, or depression before childbirth, is a mood disorder just like clinical depression. Mood disorders are biological diseases that involve changes in brain chemistry and can have both personal and biological factors involved in their development. During pregnancy, hormonal changes can alter the chemicals in your brain, which are directly related to depression and anxiety. These can be exacerbated by difficult life situations from family and partner, which can also increase the risk of developing depression during pregnancy. 

Clinical depression is a mood alteration disorder that occurs globally, without actually having a subcategory for other factors, such as pregnancy. It does present more particular symptoms and can be caused by the pregnancy itself. 

Mental alterations are also very natural to appear in pregnant women. However, since pregnancy can itself be a stressor and involves a series of hormonal changes, it can mask the depression behind it. Therefore, a good diagnosis can safeguard the physical and mental health of both the mother and the future baby. 

Symptoms of Depression 

Those symptoms that inherently come with pregnancy can hide the core symptoms of depression. Persistent fatigue or sleep problems are very common during pregnancy. But when it is mixed with sadness or disinterest in leisure or enjoyment activities appears, you may be facing an alteration of mood. 

If a woman has five of the following symptoms throughout the day for two weeks or more, a depressive disorder may exist:

·        Sadness for most of the day.

·        Tiredness or fatigue.

·        Lack of interest in daily activities and leisure.

·        Bad mood, irritation, or nervousness.

·        Lack of concentration or inability to or make decisions.

·        Sleep disturbances like sleeping too little or too much.

·        Too much appetite or a lack of appetite. The change in eating habits is more marked than what is normal during pregnancy.

·        Recurring disastrous thoughts of death, suicide, or hopelessness. 

Pregnant women who are depressed are more likely to engage in unhealthy practices when they must do the opposite. For example, a woman may fail to attend antenatal care appointments or eat well or get enough rest, can use harmful substances such as tobacco, alcohol, or drugs. These behaviors can cause premature birth or cause the baby to have a low weight. 

What Are The Risk Factors That Cause Depression During Pregnancy? 

Depression is a more common disorder in women than in men, with an onset in youth and sometimes related to pregnancies, either during or after. Although it is not due to a biological issue, the female role in society can be put under greater pressure that ends up unleashing a disorder. This is also exacerbated in pregnancy.

Depression appears due to a combination of factors, both neurological and social. This is where we can see which of these factors risk factors for depression in pregnancy are. 

          1. Stressful Life Events

Any event that may cause increased anxiety, such as financial problems, the death of a family member, or the loss of a job. 

          2. Unintended Pregnancies

Getting pregnant without planning can be reason enough for stress to trigger depression. 

          3. History of Depression

Whether it has occurred in the family or the person who previously had depression, it can be a risk factor for it to appear during pregnancy. 

          4. Family Problems

A bad relationship or problems with previous children can precipitate the development of depression. 

          5. Complications in Pregnancy

Any complication in pregnancy like long-term infertility treatment or history of previous miscarriage can trigger depression. 

Can Depression During Pregnancy Harm Your Baby? 

Untreated depression can have potentially dangerous risks to mother and baby. Untreated depression can lead to poor nutrition, drinking, smoking, and suicidal behavior, which can then cause premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental problems. A woman who is depressed often does not have the strength or desire to properly care for herself or her developing baby. 

Babies born to mothers who are depressed may be less active, show less attention, or be more agitated than babies born to mothers who are not depressed are. This is why getting the right help is important to both the mother and the baby. 

How to Treat Prenatal Depression? 

Depression is one of the most common complications during pregnancy. Even so, as it is a mental health problem, we often have difficulties identifying and talking about it. Its poor development has a direct impact on pregnancy and on the mother, so treatment should be found as soon as possible. 

A pregnant woman who is feeling depressed or experiencing symptoms of depression should talk to her doctor or a psychologist. In many cases, it can be useful to include the partner in the follow-up. 

Depression can manifest itself at various intensities. According to studies, about 18% of pregnant women experience mild depression during their pregnancy, and between 7% and 12% of women may experience moderate or severe depression. 

Mild to Moderate Depression: Several actions can help reduce mild to moderate depressive symptoms, such as eating well, exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, seeking social support, and stress reduction measures (relaxation exercises, yoga, mindfulness, etc.). Psychotherapy undertaken with a recognized psychologist or psychotherapist may be necessary to treat depression. 

Severe Depression: Medication may be prescribed when depressive symptoms are severe. Although some antidepressants can have side effects on you and your unborn baby's health, not treating depression also comes with risks. This is because depression during pregnancy can increase the severity of depressive symptoms after childbirth. A depressed mother may then interact less with her baby and this could delay the formation of the attachment bond. 

Are there safe medications to treat depression during pregnancy?

There is much debate about the safety and long-term effects of antidepressant medications taken during pregnancy. Some research now shows that certain medications used to treat depression can be linked to problems in neonates such as physical malformations, heart problems, pulmonary hypertension, and low birth weight. 

A woman with mild to moderate depression may be able to manage her symptoms with support groups, psychotherapy, and light therapy. But if a pregnant woman is facing severe depression, a combination of psychotherapy and medication is usually recommended. 

Women need to know that all medications will cross the placenta to reach their babies. There is not enough information about which drugs are entirely safe and which ones pose risks. However, when treating major depression, the risks and benefits need to be closely examined. The drug that can offer the most help, with the least risk to the baby, must be carefully considered. In addition, medication can be combined with various intervention strategies used to treat mild to moderate depression. 

If medication seems like the best treatment for your depression, forming a collaborative treatment team is the best course of action. This would include your prenatal care provider and your mental health care provider. Ask both healthcare professionals which treatments will be best for you and your baby. Find out if you have drug options and do research on them. 

What Long-Term Effects Do They Have? Is Your Baby Likely To Face Withdrawal Symptoms After Birth?

This medicine is linked to health problems in newborn babies or developmental delays in the future.  Always remember that you need to weigh between the possibilities of problems in the future versus problems that may occur now if your depression is not properly treated. 

Is Their Natural Ways To Treat Depression During Pregnancy? 

With the controversy surrounding the use of some antidepressants during pregnancy, many women are interested in other ways to help treat depression. As mentioned above, support groups, psychotherapy, and light therapy are alternatives to using medications when treating mild to moderate depression. In addition to these, you may want to talk to your health care provider about some of the other natural ways to help relieve depression symptoms. 

·        Exercise - Exercising naturally increases serotonin levels and decreases cortisol levels.

·        Get Adequate Rest - Lack of sleep greatly affects the body and mind's ability to handle stress and daily challenges. Work on establishing a routine sleep schedule that is allowed by going to bed and getting up at the same time.

·        Diet and Nutrition - Many foods have been linked to mood swings, the ability to handle stress, and mental clarity. Diets high in caffeine, sugar, processed carbohydrates, artificial additives, and low protein can lead to issues regarding your physical and mental health. Make a conscious decision to start by feeding your body foods that can help you feel better.

·        Acupuncture - New studies report acupuncture to be a viable option in treating depression in pregnant women.

·        Omega-3 Fatty Acids - For years, it has been known that Omega-3 can help with a number of health issues, but newer studies are showing that taking a daily Omega-3 / fish oil supplement can lessen symptoms of depression. Pregnant women would want to make sure to take a mercury-free version of fish oil and check with their health care provider or nutritionist on a recommended amount.

·        Herbal Remedies - There are a number of herbal and vitamin supplements known to affect mood and the hormone serotonin. Talk to your healthcare provider and nutritionist/herbalist about whether to use St John's Wort, SAM-e, 5-HTP, magnesium, vitamin B6, and flower remedies. Many of these cannot be used in conjunction with antidepressants and must be evaluated at doses for pregnant women. 

If you do not feel comfortable talking to your healthcare provider about your feelings of depression, find someone else to talk to. It is important that someone knows what you are facing and can try to help you. Never try to deal with depression alone. Your baby needs to seek help and get treatment.

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