How Does Depression Affect Pregnant Women
If you have depression while youre pregnant, you may have trouble caring for yourself.
Depression during pregnancy can also lead to:
- delivering before the due date ,
- giving birth to a small baby .
If depression during pregnancy isnt treated, it can lead to postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is a serious condition that can last for months after giving birth. It can affect your health and how well you bond with your baby.
Why Antenatal Depression Happens
As with other types of depression, theres no simple reason why some people are affected by antenatal depression and some arent.
It seems to be more common if:
- youve suffered from anxiety or depression in the past
- you have a family history of anxiety or depression
- you have a history of reproductive loss , or death of a baby
- this was an unwanted/unplanned pregnancy
- youve experienced trauma before
- youre normally sleep-deprived
- you have pre-existing physical issues
- you have a stressful relationship, or theres violence in your relationship
- you had limited support from your parents when you were a child
- youre under financial stress
- youve recently been through something stressful.
Stress Depression During Pregnancy Can Harm Child
Oct. 26, 2021 — New evidence points to the importance of helping mothers with their mental health during pregnancy.
Researchers from the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD, have found that feelings of stress or depression while pregnant are linked to changes in the placenta where the child is growing. The findings, , show these changes could alter gene activity.
Stress and depression are not uncommon among expectant women, with depression affecting an estimated 1 in 10 pregnancies, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
And current evidence already suggests that depression during pregnancy can negatively affect a child later in life. For instance, one study found that depression during pregnancy was linked to behavioral and emotional disorders during childhood, and another found that it raised the risk of depression at age 18.
To investigate stress and depression during pregnancy, the NIH investigators evaluated 301 pregnant women from 12 clinics in the United States who had taken part in an earlier clinical study. The group was ethnically diverse, with 34% identifying as Hispanic, 26% as non-Hispanic white, 24% as non-Hispanic Black, and 17% as Asian or Pacific Islander.
The purpose of studying the placenta, according to lead researcher Markos Tesfaye, MD, a post-doctoral fellow at the NIH, is that chemical changes can regulate whether a nearby gene can be activated.
You May Like: How Can You Know If You Are Depressed
Can Depression During Pregnancy Be Prevented
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force says that certain kinds of counseling can prevent perinatal depression for women at increased risk of depression. Counseling is when you talk about your feelings and concerns with a counselor or therapist. This person helps you understand your feelings, solve problems and cope with things in your everyday life.
The Task Force recommends counseling for women who have one or more of these risk factors:
- Current signs and symptoms of depression
- A history of depression or other mental health condition
- Being pregnant as a teenager or being a single mom
- Having stressful life circumstances, like low income
- Being a victim of IPV
The Task Force recommends two kinds of counseling to prevent depression for women at increased risk:
What Matters Most To You
Your personal feelings are just as important as the medical facts. Think about what matters most to you in this decision, and show how you feel about the following statements.
Reasons to take antidepressants while you’re pregnant
Reasons not to take antidepressants while you’re pregnant
I’m worried about what my depression may do to my baby.
I am afraid to take any medicine that might possibly harm my baby.
Can Depression During Pregnancy Cause Harm To My Baby
Depression that is not treated can have potential dangerous risks to the mother and baby. Untreated depression can lead to poor nutrition, drinking, smoking, and suicidal behavior, which can then cause premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental problems. A woman who is depressed often does not have the strength or desire to adequately care for herself or her developing baby.Babies born to mothers who are depressed may be less active, show less attention and be more agitated than babies born to moms who are not depressed. This is why getting the right help is important for both mom and baby.
- Light therapy
How Are Problems Treated
Treatment for mental health problems may include:
- Prescription medicine. Always talk to a doctor before you start taking or stop taking any medicines during your pregnancy. If you take any kind of medicine for a mental health issue and are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, tell your doctor. Don’t stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to. Some medicines may cause problems for a growing baby, but stopping your medicine may make things worse. Your doctor can make a treatment plan that is best for you and your baby.
- Talk therapy. Talking one-on-one with a therapist can be a great way to manage stress, deal with depression, and ease anxiety during pregnancy. Finding a support group where you can share your concerns with other mothers who know what you’re going through also can help. Talking with a social worker or counselor can help you deal with money issues, worries over raising a child, or other stresses in your life.
- Other approaches. Many women find comfort in activities like yoga, exercise, and meditation. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, talking to a friend, family member, or faith leader can help you feel better.
Many moms feel anxious or depressed at some point in their pregnancy, and some may even need treatment for it. But a mental health problem doesn’t have to be a problem for you or your baby. Get the help you need to feel better, and you’ll be doing the best thing for you both.
Recommended Reading: Is Depression And Anxiety A Mental Illness
Can A Baby In The Womb Feel Your Emotions
Your baby can feel hormones that pass through your body to their body. This means that if you are stressed, feel anxious your body creates certain hormones that YES pass through to your baby.
This can in turn cause distress to your baby. So keep those thoughts happy and try to do things that will help you relax.
Can Depression During Pregnancy Affect Your Baby
Some women dont seek treatment for their pregnancy depression out of embarrassment, shame or guilt, or simply because they think their depression symptoms are just normal pregnancy symptoms that will go away on their own.
Over time, these problems can snowball as your baby gets older. Babies and children of mothers who experienced depression during pregnancy are at greater risk for learning delays and emotional issues, including aggression.
Theres also the fact that depression may not end when your pregnancy does. Being depressed when youre pregnant also puts you at a higher risk of postpartum depression. In fact, research estimates that around a quarter of women with PPD first became depressed while they were pregnant.
So if you think theres any chance youre suffering from pregnancy depression, ask for help for yourself, but also because your baby needs a mother who’s healthy both physically and mentally.
Recommended Reading: Does Depression Cause Weight Gain
What Is Prenatal Depression
Prenatal depression is a mood disorder that affects 10 to 25 percent of expectant women, and research shows it may be becoming even more prevalent. Fluctuations in hormones throughout pregnancy can lead to mood swings, of course, but prenatal depression is more than passing feelings of sadness or stress. Instead, these emotions are persistent, intense and even debilitating.
Prenatal depression can also set new moms up for future mental health complications. Women who are suffering from depression during pregnancy may go on, during pregnancy or after delivery, to have more severe postpartum depression and should be monitored closely, says Amanda Itzkoff, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
How To Treat Depression During Pregnancy
For most women, psychotherapy is just as effective, if not more so, than medication for treating prenatal depression and anxiety, Spahr says. A good therapist can help women figure out how to manage conflict with their partner, understand their mixed feelings about becoming a mother or expanding the family, and process thoughts and feelings that may be surfacing from the past. Some therapists do specialize in maternal care, but when searching for someone to see, the most important factor to take into account is whether you feel comfortable opening up to them.
Moms-to-be with prenatal depression also have the option of taking antidepressants. If you choose to take medication, you and your doctor can weigh the benefits and risks and your physician will likely prescribe a low dose to minimize babys exposure. The antidepressants typically considered safest to take during pregnancy include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors , serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors , bupropion and tricyclic antidepressants.
Recommended Reading: Is It Possible For A Child To Have Depression
Taking Care Of Your Mental Health During Pregnancy
Pregnancy brings a mix of feelings, and not all of them are good. If you’re feeling worried, you’re not alone. Worry is common, especially during a woman’s first pregnancy or an unplanned one. It can be even harder if you’re dealing with depression or anxiety.
If you’re feeling worried, sad, or nervous, talk to someone about it and know when to reach out for help.
If Im Depressed Will It Affect My Children
Depression is treatable. But if it is not treated, it will affect your children.
Moms who are depressed may have trouble caring for their children. They may be loving one minute and withdrawn the next. They may respond to their child in a negative way or not respond at all. Your feelings and your behaviour will affect your ability to care for your children.
Depression can also affect attachment, which is important for your childs development. Attachment is a deep emotional bond that a baby forms with the person who provides most of his care. A secure attachment develops quite naturally. A mother responds to her crying infant, offering whatever she feels her baby needsfeeding, a diaper change, cuddling. Secure attachment helps protect against stress and is an important part of a babys long-term emotional health. It makes a baby feel safe and secure, and helps him learn to trust others.
If youre depressed, you may have trouble being loving and caring with your baby all the time. This can lead to an insecure attachment, which can cause problems later in childhood.
How a mothers depression affects her child depends on the childs age.
Babies who dont develop a secure attachment may:
- have trouble interacting with their mother ,
- have problems sleeping,
- may be delayed in their development,
- have more colic,
You May Like: Anxiety And Depression Self Assessment
Can Crying Cause Harm To Baby In The Womb
In short crying itself does not cause harm, like mentioned above stress induced crying can cause your body to create stress-hormones that affect baby.
Babys who had stress and anxious pregnant mothers were more likely to be colicky and have some form of depression later on in life.
-Source: The American Academy Of Pediatrics
What Causes Pregnancy Depression And Who Is Most Vulnerable
The hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy can affect your brain chemistry, impacting mood. But there are additional risk factors that can slide you towards depression:
A prior history of depression or anxiety
Big life stresses and a lack of social support
Prior or ongoing abuse
Pregnancy depression can be tough to talk about, but getting help can make all difference in the worldfor your own health, as well as for your baby.
Recommended Reading: Can Depression Get Worse With Age
Whats The Difference Between Baby Blues And Postpartum Depression
The baby blues is a mild 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 swingshappy one minute and crying the next. They may feel anxious, confused, or have trouble eating or sleeping. Up to 80% of new moms have the baby blues. Its common, and it will go away on its own.
About 13% of new mothers experience postpartum depression, which is more serious and lasts longer. You are at a greater risk if you have a family history of depression or have had depression before.
Some of the symptoms include:
- feeling like you cant care for your baby,
- extreme anxiety or panic attacks,
- trouble making decisions,
- hopelessness, and
- feeling out of control.
No one knows exactly what causes postpartum depression. If you think you have the symptoms, its important to get help right away. Postpartum depression needs to be treated. Talk to your doctor or call your local public health office.
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.
Read Also: Is Depression Normal During Pregnancy
How Is Depression Treated During Pregnancy
Its best if a team of providers treats your depression during pregnancy. These providers can work together to make sure you and your baby get the best care. Your providers may be:
- Your prenatal care provider. This is the provider who gives you medical care during pregnancy.
- Your primary care provider. This is your main health care provider who gives you general medical care.
- A mental health provider. This may be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, counselor or a therapist.
- Your babys health care provider
Depression can be treated in several ways. You and your providers may decide to use a combination of treatments instead of just one. Treatment can include:
- Counseling, like CBT and IPT
- Support groups. These are groups of people who meet together or go online to share their feelings and experiences about certain topics. Ask your provider or counselor to help you find a support group.
- Medicine. Depression often is treated with medicines called antidepressants. You need a prescription from your provider for these medicines. You may be on one medicine or a combination of medicines. Dont start or stop taking any medicine for PPD without your providers OK.
- Electroconvulsive therapy . In this treatment, electric current is passed through the brain. This treatment is considered safe to use during pregnancy. Providers may recommend ECT to treat severe depression.
What Are Some Of The Signs Of Depression During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body goes through many changes. You may experience a lot of different emotions throughout pregnancy sometimes carrying you up the emotional roller coaster, and sometimes down. Its okay to feel all of these different emotions. However, if you find youre having any of the following symptoms during your pregnancy, it could be depression and you should reach out to your healthcare provider right away. Signs of depression during pregnancy can include:
- Having recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
- Having a depressed mood for most of the day, nearly early day, for the last two weeks.
- Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless.
- Having difficulty thinking, concentrating or making decisions.
- Losing interest or pleasure in most activities during the day, nearly every day, for the last two weeks.
If you have any of the above symptoms your provider may ask you the following questions:
- Over the past two weeks, have you felt down, depressed or hopeless?
- Over the past two weeks, have you felt little interest or pleasure in doing things?
If you answer yes to either of these questions, your healthcare provider will ask you more questions during a more in-depth depression screening test.
Also Check: What To Do If I Have Anxiety And Depression
Signs And Symptoms Of Antenatal Or Prenatal Depression
Antenatal depression can happen at any point during pregnancy. Look out for:
- Unusual amount of worry about giving birth and parenthood.
- Lack of energy and disturbed sleep.
- Losing interest in yourself or your pregnancy.
- Feeling emotionally detached, teary, angry or irritable.
- Chronic anxiety.
- Sense of hopelessness about the future.
Bear in mind that you wont necessarily experience all of these symptoms. And some of them are common in all pregnancies too.
This can make antenatal depression hard to spot but if youre at all worried, flag it up to your GP or midwife .