Take Care Of Yourself
Preparing for a new baby is a lot of hard work, but your health should come first. So resist the urge to get everything done: Cut down on your chores, and do things that will help you to relax. Taking care of yourself is a key part of taking care of your unborn child.
Open up to your partner, your family, or your friends about what concerns you. If you ask for support, you’ll find that you often get it.
Your OB-GYN or regular doctor may screen you for depression at a routine office visit. They can ask you a series of questions to check your risk for depression and can offer treatment if necessary.
The Effects Of Stress In Early Pregnancy
A 2015 study published in Endocrinology found that stress in the first trimester can actually affect the microbes that reside in an expectant mother’s vagina. These microbes are transferred to the newborn during vaginal birth, resulting in changes to the little one’s gut microbiome and brain development. In turn, the affected microbes impact the infant’s immune system and metabolism. Scientists believe that the altered gut microbiota is linked to a greater risk of neurodevelopmental disorders, including autism and schizophrenia.
These effects were observed in a University of Pennsylvania lab in pregnant mice who had to endure such stressors as unfamiliar noises, predator odors, and being restrained. This all occurred during early gestation, or what might be considered the first trimester. “These results would suggest that stress might exert an effect on her offspring’s development well before the woman discovers she is pregnant,” postdoctoral researcher and study author Eldin JaÅ¡arevi says. “Our findings in our mouse model are consistent with epidemiological studies indicating that the first trimester is a dynamic and critical period to a variety of environmental factorsstress, infection, and malnutritionthat have been associated with an increased risk for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism, schizophrenia, and ADHD.”
Some of the team’s previous work also looked at stress during mid and late pregnancy, but they didn’t find these periods to be as vulnerable.
Are There Treatments For Stress In Pregnancy
Your GP’s likely to recommend that you try the self-help tips above at first. They may give you worksheets, or the details of websites that can help you manage your stress yourself.
If that doesn’t work, they may suggest talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy , which can help you get on top of things.
Stress is considered a part of everyday life, not a mental health condition, so there isn’t any specific medication for it. But if your stress leads to anxiety or depression, and it’s affecting your daily life, your GP may recommend medicine to help these conditions.
Not all anxiety medications or antidepressants are suitable for use during pregnancy, but your GP will help you weigh the risks and benefits, and find the right option for you.
What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff is a must-read book for all expectant parents.
Are you pregnant and experiencing stress? Read more below, and speak to other mums-to-be over on our forum:
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Could It Be Depression
The difference between stress and depression is sometimes hard to spot, but there are key differences.
According to the NHS, symptoms of depression can include:
- Withdrawing from other people
- Feeling irritable and intolerant of others
- Feeling anxious or worried
- Having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self harm
If you think you could be suffering from depression during pregnancy , speak to your doctor or midwife as soon as possible, they will be able to diagnose you. Read more about antenatal depression.
What Should I Do
Tell your midwife or doctor how you feel. Some women feel very distressed or guilty at feeling low at a time when everyone expects them to be happy. Remember that healthcare professionals wont judge you. They understand that depression is a mental health condition. It is not your fault, or something that you just need to get over or move on from. They will focus on helping you find the right treatment and support so you can take care of yourself and your baby.
If you find it difficult to talk about your thoughts and feelings, you could write down what you want to say first, or you may want to have someone with you. The important thing is to let someone know so that you can get the right help as soon as possible.
Its important to tell the midwife or doctor if you have had depression in the past because you may be more likely to get depression in this pregnancy or after you give birth. They can then give you the best support to reduce the chances of you getting depression again.
“I felt very tired, every time I sat down Id just doze off to sleep. I never seemed to feel that glowing period that everybody talks about.”
Emily, mum of three.
Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
- What is depression?
Depression is a common illness that can be mild or very serious. It is more than feeling sad or upset for a short time or feeling grief after a loss. Depression changes your thoughts, feelings, behavior, and physical health. It affects how you function in your daily life. It also can affect how you relate to your family, friends, and coworkers. Depression can occur at different times of life or in different situations.
- How common is depression during pregnancy?
Depression is common during pregnancy, affecting about 1 in 10 pregnant women. Some women have depression and anxiety for the first time in their lives during pregnancy or after delivery.
- What are the signs of depression during pregnancy?
The signs of depression can seem like the normal ups and downs of pregnancy. A blue mood now and then is normal. But its important to know the signs of depression. Talk with your obstetriciangynecologist if you have any of these signs for at least 2 weeks:
Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
Loss of interest in work or other activities
Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless
Sleeping more than normal or having trouble sleeping
Loss of appetite, losing weight, or eating much more than normal and gaining weight
Feeling very tired or without energy
Having trouble paying attention, concentrating, or making decisions
Being restless or slowed down in a way that others notice
Thinking about death or suicide
Anxiety During Pregnancy Effects On Baby
What do scientific studies say about the effects of maternal anxiety on the developing baby?
Low birth-weight and premature labor and delivery are associated with maternal stress due to anxiety.
Some studies also indicate the increased risk of ADHD and ADD, childhood anxiety and separation disorders, and developmental delays to children whose mothers suffer severe stress during pregnancy.
However, the evidence for these isnt very strong.
While it is generally accepted that mothers who have severe anxiety have increased risks for these problems, it is less clear how, why, and to what degree.
After all, severe anxiety is a vague term.
Each woman handles anxiety differently from another and no two expectant mothers have the exact same stressors.
In addition, while there are lots of theories to how stress harms the woman and unborn child, there is no clear answer.
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Could Too Much Stress During Pregnancy Harm The Baby
Excess anxiety may have a surprising impact on your baby’s health.
The impact of a pregnant mother’s stress on an unborn baby is debatable. Some experts believe that prolonged bouts of severe stress can negatively impact a pregnancy, causing complications like preterm birth, low birth weight, and even sleep and behavioral disorders in young children. But will a rough deadline or two at the office, or the occasional spat with your mom or sister, pose these same risks? Probably not.
Some studies have shown that the effects of chronic stress on a fetus are minimal, and that an expectant mom tends to suffer much more than her baby does. The important thing to remember is that we all experience stress, and when you’re pregnant it’s natural that every emotion can be heightened , including the negative ones. Still, enhanced stress could come with some negative side effects, and its best to be prepared.
Is There Anything Else I Should Do
If you are feeling any of the symptoms listed above, it is very important to tell someone. The early days of taking care of a new baby can be hard. Youre probably not sleeping much as you try to meet your babys needs around the clock. Find a friend, family member or someone else you trust who can look after your baby for short periods while you get a break. If people offer help, accept it.
There are many support programs for new mothers. Talk to your doctor, nurse, midwife, or contact your local public health office for a listing of services in your area.
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How Are Problems Treated
Treatment for mental health problems may include:
- Prescription medicine. Always talk to a doctor before you start taking or stop taking any medicines during your pregnancy. If you take any kind of medicine for a mental health issue and are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, tell your doctor. Don’t stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines may cause problems for a growing baby, but stopping your medicine may make things worse. Your doctor can make a treatment plan that is best for you and your baby.
- Talk therapy. Talking one-on-one with a therapist can be a great way to manage stress, deal with depression, and ease anxiety during pregnancy. Finding a support group where you can share your concerns with other mothers who know what you’re going through also can help. Talking with a social worker or counselor can help you deal with money issues, worries over raising a child, or other stresses in your life.
- Other approaches. Many women find comfort in activities like yoga, exercise, and meditation. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, talking to a friend, family member, or faith leader can help you feel better.
Many moms feel anxious or depressed at some point in their pregnancy, and some may even need treatment for it. But a mental health problem doesn’t have to be a problem for you or your baby. Get the help you need to feel better, and you’ll be doing the best thing for you both.
How Does This Happen
What many of us have difficulty conceptualising is how something that is experienced in the mind can translate into both mental and physical health problems in the child. Some theories suggest physiological, metabolic and hormonal changes during pregnancy alter the course of fetal development, in effect programming the fetus to adapt and develop in a specific way.
Its suggested that experiencing stress results in increased circulation of the stress hormone cortisol, which then crosses the placenta to the fetus, changing the hormonal makeup and compromising fetal development, both neurological and physical.
Exposure to elevated cortisol could prepare the developing fetus for a world that the mother perceives as stressful. In this way, outcomes such as behavioural problems might be seen as adaptive. For example, if a child is programmed to survive in a world that is stressful, they must be hyper-vigilant to potential danger , hyperactive , prone to aggression if required to fight off predators, and more sensitive to their environment.
All these are qualities symptomatic of behavioural problems such as anxiety, ADHD and conduct disorder.
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What Are My Options If Im Depressed During Pregnancy
If you are experiencing depression during your pregnancy, there are steps you can take to help improve how youre feeling. Preparing for a new baby is a lot of hard work, but remember that your health is important and needs to come first. There are a few things you can do to help with depression during pregnancy, including:
- Resisting the urge to get everything done. Cut down on your chores and do things that will help you relax. And remember, taking care of yourself is an essential part of taking care of your unborn child.
- Talking about your concerns. Talk to your friends, your partner and your family. If you ask for support, youll find that you often get it.
If you are not finding relief from anxiety and depression by making these changes, seek your healthcare providers advice or a referral to a mental health professional.
Connection To Postpartum Depression And Parenting Stress
Studies have found a strong link between antenatal depression and postpartum depression in women. In other words, women who are suffering from antenatal depression are very likely to also suffer from postpartum depression. The cause of this is based on the continuation of the antenatal depression into postpartum. In a logistical light, it makes sense that women who are depressed during their pregnancy will also be depressed following the birth of their child. This being said there are some factors that determine exclusively the presence of postpartum depression that are not necessarily linked with antenatal depression. These examples include variables like socioeconomic class, if a pregnancy was planned or not, and the parents’ relationship prior to conception and delivery of the child.
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How Is Depression Treated During Pregnancy
Its best if a team of providers treats your depression during pregnancy. These providers can work together to make sure you and your baby get the best care. Your providers may be:
- Your prenatal care provider. This is the provider who gives you medical care during pregnancy.
- Your primary care provider. This is your main health care provider who gives you general medical care.
- A mental health provider. This may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor or a therapist.
- Your babys health care provider
Depression can be treated in several ways. You and your providers may decide to use a combination of treatments instead of just one. Treatment can include:
- Counseling, like CBT and IPT
- Support groups. These are groups of people who meet together or go online to share their feelings and experiences about certain topics. Ask your provider or counselor to help you find a support group.
- Medicine. Depression often is treated with medicines called antidepressants. You need a prescription from your provider for these medicines. You may be on one medicine or a combination of medicines. Dont start or stop taking any medicine for PPD without your providers OK.
- Electroconvulsive therapy . In this treatment, electric current is passed through the brain. This treatment is considered safe to use during pregnancy. Providers may recommend ECT to treat severe depression.
Unhealthy Pregnancy Due To Anxiety
One school of thought on why anxiety can cause problems in pregnancy is that ineffective coping skills can lead to unhealthy behaviors and habits.
Poor diet, alcohol and drug use, smoking, over-consumption of caffeine and excessive use of over-the-counter pain relievers and sleep aides are examples of these unhealthy behaviors.
Moreover, women who have very stressful lives are unlikely to be under LESS stress after the birth of a child.
This means the environment that the infant born into is going to also cause the child anxiety as he or she develops.
This could easily explain the increased risk for attention deficit disorders, anxiety, and even some developmental delays.
So there, you can be anxious about being anxious.
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Ask Your Network For Help
It may not come naturally to you, but its more than OK to ask for help. Chances are, your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers would love to help, but dont know where to start. And if theyre wise enough to ask, accept their offer!
Ask for help creating a baby registry, cooking a few meals for the freezer, or shopping for cribs with you.
How Can I Get Help
If you feel anxious or depressed, talk to a doctor, counselor, or therapist, and get help right away. The sooner treatment starts, the sooner you’ll feel better.
Also talk to a doctor about your overall health and any mental health issues you’ve had in the past. It’s best for your doctor to know your full medical history, in case anything comes up during or after your pregnancy.
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Loneliness And Depression During Pregnancy
Meredith Shur, MD, FACOG, is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology, as well as a certified medical examiner.
While many people are aware of postpartum depression, a condition that occurs shortly after the birth of a baby, less talked about is depression occurring during pregnancy, which is called prenatal depression.
Although estimates vary, one study found that around 25% of women experienced prenatal depression. However, it also isn’t uncommon for women to experience some depressive symptoms even though they may not be severe enough for a diagnosis of depression.
Experiencing depressive symptoms during pregnancy can increase the risk of developing postpartum depression. Experts recommend that all women should be screened for depression both during and after pregnancy.
Symptoms Of Depression During Pregnancy
It can be tricky to diagnose mood disorders during pregnancy because “some of the symptoms can overlap with symptoms of pregnancy, such as changes in appetite, energy levels, concentration, or sleep,” Dr. Smith says. “It’s also normal to have some degree of worry over the health of the pregnancy.” But if you experience persistent symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, especially if you’re unable to function normally, get help.
Symptoms of depression during pregnancy include:
- Being in a depressed mood most of the time for at least two weeks. You may feel sad, hopeless, empty, and generally discontented.
- No longer enjoying the things you used to enjoy
- Persistent fear of having a panic attack
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