Get Involved With A Social Support Group
Social supports include support groups and/or targeted therapy groups. These can help with empathy, practical solutions, and specific information to assist with personal needs. This resource can truly be the heart of a treatment plan. Social support groups strive to create an environment that helps women feel connected, as if they are not alone, and promote a sense of hope. Groups can be found both online, and in person depending on your community resources.
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Or, women may feel more comfortable bringing up their mental health concerns with a therapist or psychologist, or with their primary care physician.
It doesnt necessarily need to be only your OB whos following you, Gray said. But certainly I think its important that you have someone to keep an eye on your mood.
Loneliness And Depression During Pregnancy
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 isnt 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.
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Warning Signs Of Depression During Pregnancy
The warning signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy are the same as those that are used to identify depression in other instances as well. These include:
- Feeling persistently sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, restless, or moody.
- Excessive crying.
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
- Thinking of death, suicide, or hurting yourself or your baby.
- Feeling like youâre in a fog or out of touch with your surroundings.
- Difficulty remembering things, concentrating, or making decisions.
- Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much .
- Withdrawing from family and friends.
- Not having an interest in activities that you used to enjoy.
- Having no energy or feeling tired all of the time, regardless of how much sleep you get.
- Having inexplicable headaches, stomach aches, or any other kind of physical pain.
How To Know If Youre Depressed While Pregnant
As mentioned, its completely normal to have feelings of sadness during your pregnancy. After all, you are going through a huge physical change, and it can obviously affect your mental well-being at the same time. Only by identifying your mental health situation can you begin looking into ways to deal with depression while pregnant.
But, how do you know if what you are feeling is depression? There are a few signs that point to a larger issue of depression in pregnant mothers. If you are feeling any of the following symptoms for two weeks or more, please reach out to your doctor:
- Persistent sadness
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Difficulty concentrating
- Recurring thoughts of death, suicide or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities that you usually enjoy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Change in eating habits
Even if you are not experiencing these exact symptoms, but you are worried about your mental health and feel like something is off, dont hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Something to note: Taking a pregnant and depressed quiz or reading an article online cannot provide a medical diagnosis of depression. Please, please speak with your local doctor or mental health professional if you think you may be experiencing depression while pregnant.
Are There Any Natural Treatments
With the controversy regarding 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 medication when treating mild to moderate depression.In addition to these, you may want to talk with your health care providers about some of the other natural ways to help relieve the symptoms of depression.
If you do not feel comfortable talking with your health care provider about your feelings of depression, find someone else to talk with. It is important that someone knows what you are dealing with and can try to help you. Never try to face depression alone. Your baby needs you to seek help and get treatment.
Want to Know More?
Meet With A Therapist
Therapy can provide a safe space for you to share about the thoughts and symptoms that you are experiencing without judgement. Many women who are feeling depressed during pregnancy also try to cover up this reality because they are embarrassed. When you meet with a therapist, you may be asked to complete an assessment tool.
One widely used assessment is called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale . This tool is designed specifically for use in peripartum populations and it is well validated during pregnancy and postpartum to assess for depression.6 However, it is important to note screenings alone do not treat depression, they are simply tools used to help establish a course of treatment with your provider.
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How To Get Help For A Loved One
Oftentimes, pregnant women will feel added pressure to be happy due to societal expectations. Depression can impact people in all stages of life, even during the times that are expected to be joyous. If you think that a loved one is feeling depressed there are some things that you can do to help. First, trust your instincts. Dont be afraid to ask the person if they are having a difficult time or feeling down.
Many times people think that bringing up the subjects of depression or suicide will worsen the symptoms, or remind the person of how poorly they are feeling. The truth is that many times they are already feeling isolated, alone, or too embarrassed to be honest and are in need of extra encouragement to share the burden.
One of the most helpful ways to assist someone who is depressed is to listen to them, asking them open ended questions about how they are feeling and what they are experiencing. Your loved one has the ability to get better and your support of treatment can make a world of difference.
Causes & Risk Factors For Depression While Pregnant
Many pregnant women are subjected to a wave of strong emotions, which includes feeling sad, hopeless, and experiencing a general loss of interest. This can last for a prolonged period and could cause an upheaval in daily life. Hence, it is important to know what causes this and understand its risk factors.
Some of the main causes of depression during pregnancy are:
- History of depression during childhood or early adulthood
- Hormonal changes and psychological changes associated with pregnancy
- Physical changes that occur during pregnancy, like weight gain and changes in sleep and eating patterns
What Are Some Of The Signs Of Depression During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes. You may experience a lot of different emotions throughout pregnancy sometimes carrying you up the emotional roller coaster, and sometimes down. Its okay to feel all of these different emotions. However, if you find youre having any of the following symptoms during your pregnancy, it could be depression and you should reach out to your healthcare provider right away. Signs of depression during pregnancy can include:
- Having recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
- Having a depressed mood for most of the day, nearly early day, for the last two weeks.
- Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless.
- Having difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
- Losing interest or pleasure in most activities during the day, nearly every day, for the last two weeks.
If you have any of the above symptoms your provider may ask you the following questions:
- Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed or hopeless?
- Over the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?
If you answer yes to either of these questions, your healthcare provider will ask you more questions during a more in-depth depression screening test.
Is My Depression Affecting The Baby
Exposures in pregnancy, whether it be to depression or to medication, carry some risk. During pregnancy, the mothers internal environment plays a big part in the development of her baby. When a mother is experiencing high levels of stress regularly, there is an increase in cortisol production. Increased cortisol production in pregnancy has been linked to increased risk of early miscarriage.9
Studies have found that pregnant women with depression and their babies typically do better if they receive treatment as compared with attempting to deal with untreated depression. Working with a doctor that is comfortable with assessing treatment needs during pregnancy allows for appropriate treatments and better outcomes.
Some, but not all, of the substantially dangerous outcomes for untreated depression in the perinatal period include:4
- Substance abuse
- Increased risk of postnatal depression
- Poor pregnancy outcomes including loss
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How To Get Help For Depression While Pregnant
Healthcare providers around the world are working hard to normalize the process of reaching out and receiving help for perinatal mental health disorders. Reaching out to your doctor, OBGYN, midwife, or therapist is a great first step in getting the help that you need for depression during pregnancy or after birth.
Many women suffer in silence with depression in pregnancy for a number of reasons. Some of these barriers to getting help may include cultural factors, misinformation, fear of judgment, and personal pressure to appear strong and be able to do it on their own. It is common for women experiencing perinatal mood and anxiety disorders to experience intrusive or scary thoughts which can result in confusion and embarrassment. It is important to keep in mind that seeking help from a professional does not indicate that you are weak, instead, it is a sign that you are taking care to keep yourself and your baby safe and healthy.
It is always a good idea to speak with a professional who is trained in perinatal mental health if you are having thoughts of harm to yourself or your baby.
Depression Treatment Options When Youre Pregnant
Treating depression is always a complex process for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, depression is a complicated disorder that affects each individual differently. Additionally, there are a variety of routes that can be taken in terms of treatment methods, and thereâs no way to know which method will be most effective before trying it. This means that treating depression can be a long, arduous journey that involves a great deal of trial and error.
When it comes to treating depression during pregnancy, there are, of course, more factors that need to be considered than there would be with a non-pregnant patient. Ultimately, itâs up to the patient to decide how they want to proceed with their treatment.
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Treatments For Perinatal Depression
There are various treatments that you may be offered for perinatal depression. Your doctor should discuss these options with you, so you can make a decision together about the best treatment for you:
The talking therapies you may be offered include or . These are short-term therapies recommended to treat depression.
This is most likely to be an antidepressant. If you have any concerns about taking medication, you can talk to your doctor or pharmacist. We also have information about .
A combination of talking therapy and medication
Some people find that taking medication helps them feel stable enough to get the most out of a talking therapy. But other people find medication or talking therapies are more helpful on their own.
Sometimes there may also be long waiting lists for talking therapies in your area. Your doctor may offer you an antidepressant to help you while you wait for therapy.
If you have very severe depression which doesn’t respond to other treatments, your doctor may suggest . ECT can work very quickly, so doctors may suggest that you have it shortly after giving birth. This is to help you care for and bond with your baby as soon as possible.
ECT can be used during pregnancy, but there may be concerns about giving you anaesthetic while pregnant. You can speak to your doctor about this.
See our page on for more information.
How Can Family And Friends Help
It is important to understand that depression is a medical condition that impacts the mother, the child, and the family. Spouses, partners, family members, and friends may be the first to recognize symptoms of perinatal depression in a new mother. Treatment is central to recovery. Family members can encourage the mother to talk with a health care provider, offer emotional support, and assist with daily tasks such as caring for the baby or the home.
Support or advocacy groups can offer a good source of support and information. One example of this type of group is Postpartum Support International others can be found through online searches.
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Activities For Treating Depression
Talk therapy is a common first step in treatment of depression. However, even if you are not diagnosed with depression, it can be very helpful to talk to a professional about the things that worry you. Your doctor or therapist can help identify sources of stress and anxiety and give you ways to cope.
Trying to be active and doing things you enjoyed before becoming pregnant can improve mood. Consider activities to reduce your stress, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or listening to music. Some studies suggest that listening to music and music therapy can play a role in helping pregnant women with depression.
Other lifestyle factors, such as eating fresh and nutrient-dense foods during pregnancy, as well as getting adequate sleep can help to improve your mood.
Not Treating Is Risky
But if the depression is so bad that a pregnant woman is not eating or gaining weight, for instance, then it needs to be treated as aggressively as possible.
For women at risk for depression during pregnancy those who have battled major depression in the past or who experienced depression during a previous pregnancy the news is good: The risk associated with the use of antidepressants during pregnancy is small.
But what should be considered when deciding whether or not to take an antidepressant, or to try other therapies first? And, what research is available to help put an expectant moms mind at ease?
For mild or moderate depression, Id rather use psychotherapy or group therapy than antidepressants, says Hendrick, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences at UCLA.
But for pregnant women with major depression, the risk of a relapse after stopping antidepressant medication is greater than the risks posed by treating it with medication.
If health behaviors are not good because of the depression, that could have a negative impact, says Hendrick. If a woman is not eating, not sleeping, feeling stressed or anxious these could have an adverse impact on a developing fetus. And obviously, suicidal feelings are another adverse risk associated with depression.
Untreated major depression during pregnancy may also cause infants to have an increased sensitivity to stress.
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What Are The Signs Of Antenatal Depression
The signs of depression during pregnancy are the same as at any other time in life. However, it can be harder to recognise the signs when you’re pregnant because some of the challenges of becoming a parent can overlap with depression.
Look for help if you’ve been experiencing several of the following for 2 weeks or more:
- feeling low, numb or ‘feeling nothing at all’
- feeling helpless, hopeless or worthless
- feeling teary and emotional, angry or resentful towards others
- experiencing unexpected changes in sleep or appetite
- having lack of interest or lacking energy to do things
- having thoughts of harming yourself, your baby or other children
While depression can affect any pregnant mum, it may be more likely if you’ve experienced difficult life events, have a history of physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or experienced pregnancy or childbirth-related trauma before. A previous history of depression or other mental health conditions may also put you at higher risk of antenatal depression.
If you develop depression during pregnancy, it’s likely to persist for a while after your baby is born so it’s a good idea to get help now.
How Is Depression During Pregnancy Treated
Antepartum depression can be successfully treated using standard treatments for major depression. These treatments include:
- Counseling or therapy, including specific techniques such as cognitive behavioral therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy
- Brain stimulation therapies, such as electroconvulsive therapy , in which a low-level electrical current is passed through the brain although a review of case studies, published in the Archives of Womens Mental Health, recommends using ECT only as a last resort
Prescription antidepressants offer benefits to both the mother and her child that need to be balanced carefully against their risks.
Although research findings have been mixed, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force review of the scientific evidence suggests that antidepressant use during pregnancy could be associated with a small increase in the risk of serious harm to infants. Pregnant women should discuss the pros and cons of treatment with a particular antidepressant medication with their doctors.
While some pregnant women experience such severe depression that antidepressants are essential, for women with milder forms of depression, counseling or therapy can be an effective option.
Interpersonal psychotherapy which focuses on exploring a persons relationships, identifying problems in those relationships, and improving interpersonal skills was also shown to be effective in treating depression.
With additional reporting by Pamela Kaufman.
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