Depression in pregnancy, or antenatal depression, is not something to be taken lightly.
As the matter of fact, if you are pregnant, chances are you know all about postpartum depression (depression post-pregnancy), however – antenatal depression exists too.
Of course, heightened emotions during pregnancy are normal, and more than expected, but not all of these emotions are “welcomed” in your blessed state. For instance, if you are feeling more sad than happy, this might be one of the indicators of depression in pregnancy.
Pregnancy generates hormonal changes and affects the brain chemicals in a way that can cause anxiety and depression during pregnancy.
Having in mind that pregnancy is a very emotional condition by definition, here we will try and explore the symptoms and causes of depression during pregnancy, and the ways to cope.
How common is depression in early pregnancy and why does it often go overlooked?
Even though pregnancy is often perceived as an experience filled with joy (and stress), multiple pieces of research have stated that as many as 7% of women experience depression in pregnancy.
Some of the most common signs of depression in pregnancy can be changes in sleep patterns, appetite, libido, and overall energy levels, which are commonly associated with pregnancy in general, and not ascribed as symptoms of depression.
Why does this even happen?
Many women who face depression during pregnancy are reluctant to speak of it, due to the continual stigma surrounding this particular mental state. Aside from this, there is a greater focus on women’s physical health than the mental state she is in during pregnancy.
Hence it is often overlooked.
The most common signs you might have depression in pregnancy
Speaking about guidelines that can help you determine if you suffer from depression during pregnancy, the symptoms are similar to those showing in the general population.
However, there can be some additional indicators that can help you understand your mental state better.
For example, you might experience low self-esteem, and inadequacy when it comes to your future parenting, along with a lack of joy for things and activities that you usually boost your mood and energy the most.
Along with that, you might feel anxiety about your baby, experience poor weight gain due to inadequate diet, the need to drink alcohol, smoke, or even use drugs, as the aftermath of your mental condition. Thoughts of suicide aren’t rare too.
Who is more prone to antenatal depression?
Since we have established that depression in pregnancy is very common, now we should discuss who is more prone to it.
Much like every woman experiences pregnancy in a different way, not every woman will subscribe to depressive episodes in pregnancy.
There are more than a few causes, but generally speaking, you are more likely to get antenatal depression if you have experienced some of the issues we enlisted down below.
1. You experienced depression before.
2. You have battled or are still battling anxiety.
3. You have no one to support you from people close to you.
4. Your pregnancy is not planned.
5. You are going through a trauma, or a difficult time in your life – may be divorce.
6. You are experiencing domestic abuse.
However, this doesn’t mean that solely women who are prone to depression can experience an antenatal one – far from it. Everyone can succumb to it – every type of woman, from every corner of the earth.
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What can you do?
Seeking treatment for depression in pregnancy is not easy.
Many women who experience it tend to feel stressed, or even guilty for feeling the way they do, at a time they are “supposed to” feel their happiest.
This is a common misconception and one of the most responsible surrounding the stigma around depression. No one should feel like they are supposed to do, feel or think anything. Health professionals understand this very well, and they won’t judge you for the mental state you are in – they are here to help.
By speaking to a health professional, you are making a step in the right direction. They are here to support you, get you the right treatment, raise the quality of your life and help you experience your pregnancy in a happier manner.
This is why it is very important to talk to your doctor and inform them if you had experienced depression before, so they can help you reduce the chances of experiencing it during pregnancy.
Recommendations for treatment of depression in pregnancy
Since not every woman is capable of experiencing pregnancy as a glowing and joyous period, treatments for antenatal depression also vary.
How to deal with depression in pregnancy is a question with many answers.
As the effects of depression in pregnancy vary, treatments usually involve a combination – talking to therapists, self-help, and taking medication.
Your doctor will help you determine what form of treatment is best for you, but you will have the final say. Also, you will probably be referred to a specialist who will monitor you before and after pregnancy.
Getting to the right treatment implies discussion about several factors:
1. How bad are your symptoms?
2. Can depression in pregnancy affect the baby and to what extent?
3. What is the best direction to take during the stage you are in?
4. The risks medication can pose to your baby?
5. The risks of you feeling worse without medication?
6. If you happen to use medication already – how well has it worked out for you?
Depending on the answers, the potential risks and benefits are weighed, and the right treatment is shaped. However, if you happen to get antidepressants as a recommended treatment, you need to discuss the potential risks for your pregnancy and whether your baby will experience some of the risks.
Whatever you might feel, remember that you are not alone.
Depression is fickle and it might make you feel you need to hide as you are too exposed. You need to seek help as the first step of taking care of yourself and therefore, of your baby. Start slow, do not force yourself, and learn to cope at your own pace. Remember – if you need to talk to somebody, our depression specialists are here for you!