Depression During Pregnancy: Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

How to Deal with Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy

Getting depression at some point in your pregnancy is common and to be expected. About 10% of all pregnant women will go through depression during pregnancy. Depression during pregnancy often happens as a result of hormonal imbalances caused by your pregnancy, because your body needs to prepare for the oncoming baby. Pregnant women tend to discount their feelings, and check it off as “being hormonal.” However, if you think you might be getting depression during pregnancy, giving your physician a call and discussing the issue and your options is important.

Depression during pregnancy – why does it happen?

Depression during pregnancy is a common occurrence, but why do pregnant women suffer from this condition? Pregnancy is a time of enormous changes, both physical and mental, and while not every woman who gets pregnant will become depressed many will suffer from this problem. One cause is unrealistic expectations. Pregnancy is viewed as a time of joy and maternal bliss, and this is not always true. Expecting a baby can be stressful, and you may find that you have many concerns and doubts as your pregnancy progresses. Heredity can also play a role because if you have a family history of depressed thoughts and behavior you are more at risk to develop this problem yourself. Sometimes pregnancy can cause this condition just because of the changes that are happening in the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. These natural chemicals are produced in your brain and help to regulate your mood, and if they become unbalanced this can lead to you feeling depressed and blue.

During pregnancy, your hormone levels are constantly fluctuating, and this can lead to emotional outbursts and sadness. Estrogen will often act as a protective barrier to depression, and during pregnancy, women have this hormone in abundance. But in some women, if this hormone level is high and so are the levels of the hormone progesterone, then they may become depressed. The later stages of pregnancy may also cause changes which may lead to stress and anxiety, including rapid and extreme physical changes.

During the last trimester of pregnancy, many women find that they want it to be over, and they have difficulty with physical activities as well as sleeping and feeling comfortable. A lack of quality sleep can lead to depression, and so can have a negative image of yourself. During pregnancy, you know that the physical changes are not permanent, but it may be hard to feel good about yourself or stay upbeat when it is hard to breathe, you can barely move, and you have not seen your feet in weeks. Even something as simple as taking a shower may require help, and minor stress factors can become major issues.

Some women may experience pregnancy without any depression at all, or with minor symptoms that do not affect them in any noticeable way. Other women may end up being diagnosed as clinically depressed if the symptoms of this condition last for two weeks or more. The biggest contributing factor to this condition during pregnancy is the levels of hormones and neurotransmitters that are present at any given time. Your brain chemistry is crucial to your mental outlook, and when this chemistry is not perfect then you may become depressed. The changes during pregnancy may contribute to an imbalance in these chemicals for some women, especially if you have other risk factors for this condition as well. There is no one specific factor that causes you to become depressed, but there is help available if you experience this condition during your pregnancy. Discuss your concerns with your obstetrician to find out what your options are.

Symptoms of depression during pregnancy

Most women begin to suspect they have depression during pregnancy when:

  • They have difficulty focusing
  • They feel lethargic, as though moving through life in a smog
  • Loss of appetite
  • Contemplating thoughts about killing themselves
  • No longer taking pleasure in activities they used to delight it
  • These thoughts and emotions last over 14 days
  • Sleeplessness/sleeping way too much
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Hopelessness
  • Sadness
  • Guilt

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.

Causes of depression during pregnancy

  • Family history of depression
  • Relationship troubles
  • Stressful situations
  • Abuse or trauma
  • Fertility treatments
  • Having suffered a miscarriage previously
  • Fear of the bodily changes
  • Financial burden of raising a child
  • Not having a supportive partner
  • Pregnancy complication
  • Unplanned pregnancies


Types of treatment available

It is a fact that depression during pregnancy is treatable using various methods. If you experience the various symptoms of depression for more than 2 weeks, it is time that you consulted your physician and sought counsel regarding treatment. The most preferred form of treatment is psychotherapy. This is because though many women are prescribed antidepressants and many have had children with no side effects, the fact that these antidepressants have been known to cause birth defects such as heart disorders, lung, liver, and kidney disorders etc. in the unborn child cannot be ignored. If women choose to take prescribed drugs, they have to do so after carefully considering the risks to her and to the child.

Psychotherapy helps as without drugs and by positive counseling, the woman is made to come to terms with the factors that are causing depression during pregnancy and helps them to become better equipped to deal with pregnancy and depression. Interpersonal Psychotherapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy are used in treating depression during pregnancy. The women are thus made to relax, reduce the stress in their lives, given support and provided care which can have a very positive outcome. If they have unreliable spouses, they are encouraged to become self-reliant and confident. Dietary changes, taking the time off to relax and do something that is enjoyable go a long way in treating depression.

Pregnancy planning and extra care during pre-pregnancy can lower the chances of depression as the women are aware of the risks associated and are mentally and physically ready for the various changes. Depression during pregnancy may be lessened by having family support, exercising regularly, meditating and by eating nutritious and healthy food. Getting pregnant is one of the unique phases in a woman’s life; make it more enjoyable by having a positive outlook, reducing stress levels and by ensuring you are free from symptoms of depression during pregnancy.



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