Each Women Need to Know About Depression During Pregnancy

January 11, 2019

Welcoming a little baby into the world can be one of the happiest moments in a woman’s life, but it can also be one of the most stressful. Women are often aware of the risk of postpartum depression, but what many don’t realize is that there is also a risk of depression during pregnancy.

According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 14 to 23 percent of pregnant women experience depression during pregnancy.” This is something we should monitor all pregnant women closely, as the tendency to under-report or under-recognize symptoms is also well known,” Dr. Natalie Dattilo, director of psychology services at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, told Health.

Here’s everything women need to know about depression during pregnancy.

Why does depression often go undetected during pregnancy?
Some of the symptoms of depression, such as changes in sleep, appetite and energy levels, can also be symptoms of pregnancy.” Sometimes it’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on when you’re pregnant because so much is happening,” says Dattilo, “especially if it’s your first pregnancy.”

Doctors may also incorrectly attribute symptoms to pregnancy rather than depression.Dattilo says that while it should be standard practice for doctors to monitor the mental health of pregnant women, many still focus more on a woman’s physical health instead. Women may also find it difficult to talk to their doctors about depression because of the stigma attached to it.

Risk factors
The No. 1 risk factor for becoming depressed during pregnancy is having previous depression, Helen L. Coons, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora, tells Health. If a woman has experienced depression during a previous pregnancy, the risk is even higher. Other risk factors include.

A family history of depression
History of personal anxiety
Complicated pregnancies
Inadequate social support
stressful life
Past trauma
unwanted pregnancy

Signs and symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms of depression during pregnancy include.

Constant feelings of sadness, anxiety, or “emptiness.”
Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
Feelings of irritability or restlessness.
energy loss
Problems concentrating, recalling details and making decisions.
Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping too much
Overeating or loss of appetite.
Aches and pains that do not improve after treatment.
Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts.
When to see a doctor
While the symptoms of depression can be similar to those of pregnancy, Dattilo says, “Be sure to consult your doctor if your symptoms are worrying you, or if they’re affecting your ability to live your life and you want to.

Think about how your mood has changed as a result of becoming pregnant, she adds. Do the things you used to enjoy no longer sound fun? Are you withdrawing from a relationship or hobby? Do you question whether pregnancy, or life in general, is even worth it? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you must seek help.

Dr. Laura Honos Weber, author of Listen to Depression, tells Health that whether or not a woman’s symptoms fit the criteria for depression, therapy can help ease the transition to motherhood. It can also help prevent symptoms from worsening. Pregnancy is such a stressful time, “why not get some help?” She said.

Why healing is important
In some cases, depression during pregnancy can affect the baby’s development. That’s because “when women are significantly depressed, they tend to be less likely to take care of themselves,” says Dattilo.” It’s not because they do it on purpose, but because they don’t have the energy, interest or motivation, so they may not make healthy choices in other ways.”

Women who become depressed during pregnancy may not feel as excited about their pregnancy. They may not keep up with the best prenatal care (such as regular doctor visits), they may not eat the healthy foods their baby needs, they may not sleep as well, and they may turn to alcohol or smoking to cope.

Untreated depression can also put women at increased risk of experiencing postpartum depression and difficulty bonding with their baby.

Treatment options
In general, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often the treatment of choice for depression, says Dattilo.CBT is a form of talk therapy that helps people learn how to identify and change destructive thought patterns that negatively affect their behavior and emotions.

For pregnant women, however, some research suggests that interpersonal therapy (IPT) can be beneficial, Dattilo says.IPT focuses on your relationships with others and how they affect your life. It’s based on the idea that personal relationships are at the center of psychological problems.” This can help examine your relationships and how they change with that role reversal,” she says.IPT can also help you examine your relationship with yourself and how becoming a mother can affect your sense of identity.

Other research suggests that certain antidepressants may be safe to take during pregnancy. If you’re interested in taking antidepressants in addition to therapy, talk to your doctor and psychiatrist about your options. They can help you decide what’s right for you.