Pregnancy comes with many assumptions and stereotypes. The glow! The cravings! The unconditional love for the tiny bundle of cells growing inside you!
While pregnancy and childbirth are often marked with joy and gratitude, the reality isn't always as accurate as the Hallmark cards or Pinterest boards depict. With research from The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists showing that up to 14 percent of women struggle with clinical depression during pregnancy, this "happy time" can actually represent a silent and devastating struggle.
If you or your loved one is struggling with depression during pregnancy, help and treatment are available. Let's get into what you need to know.
What Are The Signs of Depression During Pregnancy?
Pregnancy itself is characterized by hormonal shifts and mood swings. Therefore, it can be hard to tell the difference between normal changes and clinical depression. That said, some of the telltale symptoms include:
- A persistent sense of sadness or apathy
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Oversleeping or undersleeping
- Thoughts of suicide or death
- Lack of interest in activities
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
Depression is a mood disorder. That means that the symptoms affect how you function throughout the day. Depression isn't just a feeling—it's a state that impacts how you feel, think and behave.
What Causes Depression During Pregnancy?
There isn't a single answer. However, research does pinpoint several risk factors that can increase one's vulnerability to depression. These factors include:
- having an unwanted or unplanned pregnancy
- medical issues
- lack of financial support
- history of trauma or abuse
- history of depression
- ongoing life stressors (marital problems, work issues)
- fertility problems and previous pregnancy losses
If you have one or more of these risk factors, it is important to tell your doctor. He or she can provide you with the necessary screening and monitoring to determine your mental health status.
Coping With Depression
There are many treatment options for pregnant women struggling with depression. Some people may benefit from integrating more self-care and healthy coping skills in their daily living (i.e., exercise, nutrition, meditation). Others may benefit from professional intervention.
Psychotherapists can help you feel supported and understood during this complex journey. You will learn about your depression triggers and identify healthier ways to cope with symptoms as they arise.
Therapy can also be a safe place to explore your fears and reservations about childbirth and parenting. Many women struggle with such worries, and working with a nonjudgmental, objective party can help you feel more empowered during this time.
Many public and private agencies facilitate support groups for women struggling with depression. Some of them may be focused specifically on pregnant women. However, others may include more of a general crowd.
Support groups can be a fantastic resource for normalizing depression. You will learn that you are not alone in your struggles, and you will find comfort in how others have found healing and strength during their battles.
Due to the potential health risks to the baby, medication during pregnancy remains a controversial issue in the medical community.
That is why it's essential to consult with your doctor if you have concerns about taking your current medication or starting a new prescription. You and your doctor can outweigh the pros and cons to determine the best treatment for your pregnancy.