Is Depression During Pregnancy Bad For The Baby

Are There Any Natural Treatments

Treating depression during pregnancy

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.

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Difference Between Depression And Postpartum Depression

Before jumping into the effects of depression during pregnancy, it is helpful to understand the difference between general depression and postpartum depression. Both depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression can negatively affect child development. As the Office on Womens Health explains, postpartum depression refers to an incident of depression that occurs during the period after childbirth. Its not unusual for women to experience baby blues, which are feelings of sadness that occur in the first few days after giving birth. If sadness persists for more than two weeks and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as excessive crying, feelings of being worthless or being a bad mother, and withdrawal from friends and loved ones, a mother may be suffering from postpartum depression. Unfortunately, experts report that postpartum depression can interfere with the attachment between mother and baby and lead to harsher parenting, which can negatively affect a babys developing social and cognitive skills.

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.

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How Can I Help Myself

Depression can make you want to hide away from the world and you may feel like you dont want to do anything. But it is important to make sure you take care of yourself. Start with little activities, take things at your own pace and most importantly, ask for help if you need it. Here are a few ideas for what you can do.

  • Talk to someone you trust about your feelings, such as your partner, family or a friend.
  • Try not to feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed. These feelings are not your fault.
  • Try some of our top tips for looking after your emotional wellbeing.
  • Exercise as much as you can. Keeping active will release some feel-good endorphins.
  • Eat well even if you dont have much appetite.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking. This can harm your baby and make you feel worse.
  • Dont take St Johns Wort .

If Youre Taking An Antidepressant When You Get Pregnant Dont Stop Taking It Without Talking To Your Provider First

Depression During Pregnancy

What is depression?

Depression is a medical condition that causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in things you like to do. It can affect how you feel, think and act and can interfere with your daily life. It needs treatment to get better.

Perinatal depression is depression that happens during pregnancy or in the first year after having a baby. Its one of the most common medical complications of pregnancy. It affects up to 1 in 7 women . It includes postpartum depression , which is depression that happens after pregnancy.

Depression is not your fault. And treatment can help you feel better. Untreated perinatal depression can cause problems for you and your baby. If you think youre depressed, tell your health care provider right away.

What are the signs and symptoms of depression?

Major depression is more than just feeling down for a few days. You may have depression if you have signs or symptoms of depression that last for more than 2 weeks. Signs of a condition are things someone else can see or know about you, like you have a rash or youre coughing. Symptoms are things you feel yourself that others cant see, like having a sore throat or feeling dizzy.

Signs and symptoms of depression include:

Changes in your feelings

  • Feeling sad, hopeless or overwhelmed
  • Feeling restless or moody
  • Thinking about death or suicide

Changes in your everyday life

Changes in your body

Can depression during pregnancy affect you and your baby?

What causes depression?

More information

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Stress And Low Birth Weight

A second area of developing convergence concerns the effects of stress on infant birth weight and/or LBW, reviewed recently by Dunkel Schetter and Lobel . Again these studies can be organized by type of stressor. Evidence suggests that `major life events’ somewhat consistently predicted fetal growth or birth weight, whereas measures of `perceived stress’ had small or nonsignificant effects. `Chronic stressors’, however, have been even more robust predictors of birth weight. For example, unemployment and crowding predicted 2.0 to 3.8 times the risk of LBW among low-income women in one study . An important source of chronic stress is `racism or discrimination’ occurring both during the pregnancy and over a woman’s lifetime . Racism and discrimination contribute to birth outcomes independently of other types of stress . A growing number of studies have demonstrated that racism and discrimination prospectively predict birth weight, particularly in AfricanâAmerican women . Although this literature has focused mainly on women in the USA, it is relevant to minority women in other countries .

Symptoms Of Depression During Pregnancy

The signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy are the same as those that occur with depression in the general population. However, additional clues that might indicate depression during pregnancy include:

  • Excessive anxiety about your baby
  • Low self-esteem, such as feelings of inadequacy about parenthood
  • The inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable.
  • Poor response to reassurance
  • Poor adherence to prenatal care
  • Smoking, drinking alcohol or using illicit drugs
  • Poor weight gain due to a decreased or inadequate diet
  • Thoughts of suicide

Some research suggests that depressive episodes occur more frequently during the first and third trimesters.

General depression symptoms include:

  • Slowed thinking, speaking, or body movements
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures or self-blame
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide
  • Unexplained physical problems, such as back pain or headaches

For many people with depression, symptoms usually are severe enough to cause noticeable problems in day-to-day activities, such as work, school, social activities, or relationships with others. Some people may feel generally miserable or unhappy without really knowing why.

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Affect And Preterm Birth

State anxiety during pregnancy significantly predicted gestational age and/or PTB in seven of 11 studies recently reviewed , but only in combination with other measures or in subgroups of the sample. More consistent effects have been found for `pregnancy anxiety’ . Pregnancy anxiety appears to be a distinct and definable syndrome reflecting fears about the health and well being of one’s baby, of hospital and health-care experiences , of impending childbirth and its aftermath, and of parenting or the maternal role . It represents a particular emotional state that is closely associated with state anxiety but more contextually based, that is, tied specifically to concerns about a current pregnancy. Assessment of pregnancy anxiety has entailed ratings of four adjectives combined into an index . Other measures exist as well.

In sum, recent evidence is remarkably convergent, indicating that pregnancy anxiety predicts the timing of delivery in a linear manner. Further, pregnancy anxiety predicts risk of spontaneous PTB with meaningful effect sizes across studies, comparable to or larger than effects of known risk factors such as smoking and medical risk. These effects hold for diverse income and ethnic groups in the USA and in Canada. The consistency of these findings paves the way for investigating the antecedents and correlates of pregnancy anxiety, mechanisms of effects, and available treatments.

Are There Other Ways I Can Manage My Depression During Pregnancy

Coping with Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy

Coping with the physical, hormonal, and emotional changes of pregnancy is hard when you have depression. The best approach is to talk to your provider and find a treatment plan that works well for you. The following tips can also help you to manage depression during pregnancy.

Care for yourself. It’s an essential part of taking care of your baby, so put self-care at the top of your to-do list. Make time to read a book, have breakfast in bed, take a hot bath, or go for long walks around the neighborhood.

Spend time with other people. Nurture your relationship with your partner, friends, and family.

Join a support group. Connect with other moms, especially those who are also struggling with depression during pregnancy. Ask your doctor for local resources, or find a support group near you at MOPS International or the National Parent Helpline. You can also get online support from BabyCenter’s online community, the Motherhood Center, or Postpartum Support International.

Stay active. Aim to fit in some physical activity every daywhether it’s taking a prenatal yoga class, hitting the gym, or going for a walk around the block . Research suggests even small amounts of physical activity can ease symptoms of depression and anxiety by releasing feel-good brain chemicals and taking your mind off of worries.

Eat well. Focus on consuming lots of fresh foods, especially fruits, vegetables, low-fat meat and poultry, fish, and whole grains. Try to minimize processed and sweet foods.

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The Following May Suggest Depression During Pregnancy:

  • History of depression either before pregnancy or during a previous pregnancy
  • Excessive anxiety such as being so concerned about the wellbeing of your baby that it negatively affects your daily activities
  • Poor self-esteem such as excessive concern about the ability to be a good mother
  • Despondency or hopelessness
  • Using alcohol, illicit drugs, tobacco
  • Poor weight gain due to decreased appetite and inadequate diet
  • Suicidal ideation

Your doctor will look for these five specific symptoms of major depression:

  • Dysphoria which means you feel sad, depressed, or anxious
  • Anhedonia which means lack of interest
  • Excessive guilt or feelings of worthlessness
  • Impaired concentration and decision making
  • Suicidal ideation or behavior
  • Stress And Negative Affective States In Pregnancy And Infant Or Child Outcomes

    Evidence for effects of maternal stress, depression, and anxiety in pregnancy on adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes for the child is substantial , through a process known as `fetal programming’ . Research utilizing animal models indicates that maternal distress negatively influences long-term learning, motor development, and behavior in offspring . Evidence suggests that this occurs via effects on development of the fetal nervous system and alterations in functioning of the maternal and fetal hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axes . Maternal mood disorders have also been shown to activate the maternal HPA axis and program the HPA axis and physiology of the fetus . In short, a mother’s stress exposure and her affective states in pregnancy may have significant consequences for her child’s subsequent development and health . This evidence has been reviewed in many articles and spans effects on attention regulation, cognitive and motor development, fearful temperament, and negative reactivity to novelty in the first year of life behavioral and emotional problems and decreased gray matter density in childhood and impulsivity, externalizing, and processing speed in adolescents . Of note, many of these findings involve the effects of prenatal pregnancy anxiety on infant, child, or adolescent outcomes. Maternal stress has also been linked to major mental disorders in offspring .

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    Depression In Pregnant Women And Mothers: How Children Are Affected

    Depression is a common, treatable mood disorder. About 6% of women, including up to 10% of women who are pregnant, will experience depression at some time during their lives.

    Women are more at risk of depression while they are pregnant, and during the weeks and months after having a baby. Depression during these times can be confused with the symptoms of pregnancy or with the baby blues that many women experience right after birth.

    The good news is that depression can be treated. Its important to talk to your doctor if you think you are depressed. If left untreated, depression can lead to problems for you and your baby or child.

    Will Depression In Pregnancy Harm My Baby

    Depression During Pregnancy: My Experience, Causes, Symptoms, and Help

    Although depression is a mental health condition rather than a physical one, that doesnt mean it wont cause harm to your unborn baby. If depression goes untreated it may have potentially dangerous consequences for both you and your baby.

    Some pregnant women turn to smoking, drug-taking or drinking alcohol as a way of helping them to cope with their depression, and clearly, these behaviors can cause harm both to the woman herself and her unborn baby. Premature births, low birthweight and ongoing development problems are all risks associated with such behaviors in pregnancy.

    Women who are depressed may also fail to care for themselves properly. This can lead to poor nutrition that can result in a low birthweight baby with health issues. Women who are extremely depressed may even experience suicidal thoughts, and clearly this poses a risk to an unborn child.

    Babies who are born to depressed mothers are also more likely to experience problems after the birth. They may be less attentive and active, and have greater restlessness and agitation than those born to mothers without depression. They may also cry more, and this can be difficult to cope with, exacerbating the depression still further.

    Pregnant women with untreated depression may also have children who have behavioral issues as well as delayed language and cognitive development. Again, this is hard for anyone to cope with and can cause depressive problems to worsen.

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    Symptoms Of Postpartum Depression

    The symptoms of postpartum depression are similar to symptoms of depression, but may also include:

    • Crying more often than usual.
    • Feelings of anger.
    • Feeling distant from your baby.
    • Worrying or feeling overly anxious.
    • Thinking about hurting yourself or your baby.
    • Doubting your ability to care for your baby.

    If the situation is potentially life-threatening, call 911.

    Call or text 988, or chat at

    988 is confidential, free, and available 24/7/365, connecting those experiencing a mental health, substance use, or suicidal crisis with trained crisis counselors.

    24/7, Free, Confidential Hotline for Pregnant and New Moms in English and SpanishCall or text 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS .

    How Do I Get Help

    Make sure to talk to your doctor if you or your family notice signs of depression. Some women dont tell anyone about their symptoms. They feel embarrassed, ashamed, or guilty about feeling depressed when they are supposed to be happy. They worry they will be viewed as unfit parents. Any woman may become depressed during pregnancy or after having a baby. It doesnt mean you are a bad or not together mom.

    Here are some other helpful tips:

    • Rest as much as you can.
    • Dont try to do too much or try to be perfect.
    • Ask your partner, family, and friends for help.
    • Make time to go out, visit friends, or spend time alone with your partner.
    • Discuss your feelings with your partner, family, and friends.
    • Talk with other mothers so you can learn from their experiences.
    • Join a support group. Ask your doctor about groups in your area.
    • Dont make any major life changes during pregnancy or right after giving birth. Major changes can cause unneeded stress. Sometimes big changes cant be avoided. When that happens, try to arrange support and help in your new situation ahead of time.

    The two common types of treatment for depression are:

    • Talk therapy This involves talking to a therapist, psychologist, or social worker to learn to change how depression makes you think, feel, and act.
    • Medicine Your doctor can prescribe an antidepressant medicine. These medicines can help relieve symptoms of depression.

    Untreated, postpartum depression may last for many months or longer.

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    Seeing A Reproductive Psychiatrist

    If you have a mood disorder, you may benefit from speaking with a reproductive psychiatrist when you are pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. Ideally, this should happen when you are planning for pregnancy, although this isnt always possible. Meeting with a doctor after you become pregnant is not too late.

    Osborne says her approach with patients is to limit the number of potentially harmful exposures to the baby. This means considering the number of medications a mother is on, as well as her psychiatric illness.

    If a woman takes a low dose of many medications and we have time to plan, well try to get that down to a higher dose of fewer medications, she says. If a woman is on a low dose and its not controlling her illness, then her baby is exposed to both the medication and the illness. In that case, I would increase the medication dosage so her baby isnt exposed to the illness.

    If your illness is mild, your doctor might recommend getting off medication and replacing it with treatments such as psychotherapy, prenatal yoga or acupuncture to improve your mood.

    Ultimately, Osborne says women should weigh the risks of medication against the risk of untreated illness.

    If a particular side effect is extremely rare, its still a very rare event even if you double the risk, she says. Medication risks are typically not greater than those of untreated mental illness. Switching a womans medication is something I do very carefully and reluctantly.

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