How to Identify Depression In Pregnant Women and What to Do

 

Much research has been done related to postpartum depression, but it is also common to feel depression during pregnancy. Treating depression in pregnant women can be more difficult, because some medications may affect the developing baby. However, it is important to treat depression in pregnant women, since it can cause the mother to make poor decisions about her health and that of her child. Left untreated, depression can even be fatal, so if you suspect that a pregnant women is battling depression, it is imperative to get her to seek treatment.

Depression During Pregnancy is Common

According to AmericanPregnancy.org, “Depression is a mood disorder that affects 1 in 4 women at some point during their lifetime, so it should be no surprise that this illness can also touch women who are pregnant. But all too often, depression is not diagnosed properly during pregnancy because people think it is just another type of hormonal imbalance.”

Pregnant women suffering from depression will experience symptoms similar to others, including a constant feeling of sadness, changes in sleeping habits, thoughts of hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness and lack of interest in usual activities, among others. Recognize that you are not alone. According to WomensHealth.gov, “About 13 percent of pregnant women and new mothers have depression.” 

Some Are More At Risk

As with regular depression, some people are more susceptible to depression during pregnancy than others. WomensHealth.gov advises that the following factors may increase your risk: “A personal history of depression or another mental illness; A family history of depression or another mental illness; A lack of support from family and friends; Anxiety or negative feelings about the pregnancy; Problems with a previous pregnancy or birth; Marriage or money problems; Stressful life events; Young age; and Substance abuse.” If you meet any of these risk factors and feel that you may be suffering from depression, make an appointment with your doctor.

Getting Help

Treating depression during pregnancy is important, but some women don’t get help, because they fear what effects medication may have on their baby. There are ways to treat depression without medication, but they may not be advisable for women who are already being treated. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “For women on medication with mild or no symptoms for six months or longer, it may be appropriate to taper and discontinue medication before becoming pregnant. Medication discontinuation may not be appropriate in women with a history of severe, recurrent depression (or who have psychosis, bipolar disorder, other psychiatric illness requiring medication, or a history of suicide attempts). Women with suicidal or acute psychotic symptoms should be referred to a psychiatrist for aggressive treatment.” If your depression is mild, you may be able to treat it strictly with therapy, meaning that your baby will not be at risk from medication.

You May Try Alternative Therapy

While traditional methods of treating depression have been proven, some women choose to seek out alternative treatments, such as medication or acupuncture. WomensMentalHealth.org recently published the results of a study conducted to determine how well acupuncture works on treating depression in pregnant women. “The findings suggest that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for women who suffer from depression during pregnancy.  Whether or not this modality is efficacious in all women, specifically those with more severe depressive symptoms or with comorbid anxiety disorders, is not yet clear; however, these results suggest that acupuncture may be an attractive option for women who wish to avoid the use of antidepressants during pregnancy.” Be sure to clear all treatments with your doctor prior to beginning.

With its mental and physical symptoms, depression during pregnancy is a risky, yet highly treatable condition. If you think that you may be suffering from depression, getting treated early may greatly improve your health and the health of your baby.