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Antepartum and postpartum depression

Though a woman feels most happy in her life when she is pregnant, it is also the time when many women feel confused, fearful, stressed, and even depressed. One in four women is affected with the mood disorder called depression sometime during her life. It is no wonder, therefore, that depression in pregnancy is quite common. Depression may not be properly diagnosed during pregnancy time as the symptoms are generally confused with that caused by hormonal imbalance.  Pregnant women may not know that they are suffering from depression. They may consider it to be “baby blues” or symptoms of pregnancy. Many women experience it even after birth.

This is not good for either the pregnant woman or the unborn baby. This is because the illness mood disorder can be not only treated but also managed. However, it is of utmost importance that they seek help and support.

What is Depression during Pregnancy?

Antepartum depression, the mood disorder that occurs during pregnancy, is similar to clinical depression. It is a biological illness that brings about changes in the chemistry of the brain. Of course, the changes in hormone levels, especially those related to anxiety depression, during pregnancy do exert an effect on the woman’s brain chemistry. These effects get exacerbated because of difficult life situations and lead to depression during pregnancy.

Signs of Depression

Crying with no reasonDepression often sets in slowly and the symptoms vary from one person to another. The symptoms may be insignificant, moderate, or severe. The more commonly seen symptoms are:

  • Appetite changes: While some pregnant women eat too much, some others show little or no interest in food.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: Some might sleep too much, while some might experience trouble sleeping.
  • Lack of energy
  • A feeling of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness.
  • Crying for no particular reason.
  • Lack of interest in the activities that they normally engage in.

Pregnant women suffering from depression may not be able to take care of their babies properly. After delivery, they may not feel like spending time with the baby. This can cause the baby to cry a lot.

What Triggers Depression during Pregnancy?

Typically, depression sets in because of the following reasons:

  • Relationship issues
  • History of depression, personal or in the family
  • Treatments for infertility
  • Loss of pregnancy in the past
  • Stress in life
  • Pregnancy complications
  • History of trauma or abuse

What is the Impact of Depression on Pregnant Women?

A pregnant woman suffering from depression may not be able to care for herself in the right manner. Depression during pregnancy might lead to:

  • Miscarriage
  • Preterm delivery or delivering the baby before the specified due date
  • Delivering a small or low birth weight baby

If the condition is not treated properly, it can cause postpartum depression which is a serious condition as it can last for several months following delivery. It affects not only their health but also the way they bond with their baby.

How is Postpartum Depression different from “Baby Blues”?

The “baby blues” is a minor form of postpartum depression that many new moms experience. It usually starts 1 to 3 days after the birth and can last for 10 days to a few weeks. With “baby blues”, many women have mood swings—happy one minute and crying the next. They may feel anxious, confused, or have trouble eating or sleeping. About 80 percent of the new moms experience “baby blues”, but they get over that soon.

“Baby blues” can be defined as a mild type of postpartum depression experienced by up to 80 percent of new moms. It may start within one to three days after delivery and lasts for up to 10 days or, sometimes a few weeks. The women suffering from this type of postpartum depression experience mood swings, confusion, anxiety, and trouble sleeping or eating. New mothers, approximately 13 percent, experience a serious form of postpartum depression. This type of depression lasts for a longer time. Women that have had an episode of depression or a family history are at greater risk.

Postpartum depression symptoms include:

Feeling of Sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness

  • Feeling that they cannot provide care for the baby
  • Panic attacks or extreme anxiety
  • Inability to make decisions
  • A feeling of sadness, hopelessness
  • A feeling that things are going out of control

The exact causes of depression during pregnancy are not known. Women experiencing these symptoms should seek help immediately.

How does depression affect your children?

Depression can be treated. If the affected mother is not treated, children may suffer. Affected moms cannot take proper care of their child. Their feelings and behavior can reduce their ability to provide care. Depression also impacts affection and hence the child’s development. Affection creates an emotional bonding between the mother and baby. Lack of affection causes insecurities later on in childhood.

How to cure depression?

Treatment helps many women to recover from depression. Treating postpartum depression can involve a combination of the following:

  • Social support through parenting education and community services
  • Family therapy
  • Individual therapy
  • Medication

Can moms taking antidepressants breastfeed their babies?

Breastfeeding offers several health benefits to babies in addition to developing a bond between them. Small amounts of antidepressants could reach the baby through breast milk. However, studies show that children do not experience problems. Therefore, moms on antidepressants can breastfeed their babies. Depression can return if breastfeeding moms stop taking antidepressants.

What else should moms do?

Women experiencing one or more of the symptoms mentioned above during pregnancy should bring the same to the attention of someone. Taking care of the new baby in early days is hard. New moms may not be able to sleep much. They should seek help from a family member, friend, or someone else that they can trust to take care of their baby for a while so that they get some rest. They should accept offers for help.

It is possible to manage depression. Stress and depression experienced by pregnant women are not generally detected by healthcare professionals. In fact, very little is being done to provide help. Mental health is often neglected during obstetric care. Diagnosing depression or providing help is actually not very difficult. At IVF Spring Fertility Centre, mental health is given due importance during counseling to prevent the incidence of depression during and post pregnancy.

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