Not Treating Is Risky
But if the depression is so bad that a pregnant woman is not eating or gaining weight, for instance, then it needs to be treated as aggressively as possible.”
For women at risk for depression during pregnancy — those who have battled major depression in the past or who experienced depression during a previous pregnancy — the news is good: The risk associated with the use of antidepressants during pregnancy is small.
But what should be considered when deciding whether or not to take an antidepressant, or to try other therapies first? And, what research is available to help put an expectant mom’s mind at ease?
“For mild or moderate depression, I’d rather use psychotherapy or group therapy than antidepressants,” says Hendrick, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and bio-behavioral sciences at UCLA.
But for pregnant women with major depression, the risk of a relapse after stopping antidepressant medication is greater than the risks posed by treating it with medication.
“If health behaviors are not good because of the depression, that could have a negative impact,” says Hendrick. “If a woman is not eating, not sleeping, feeling stressed or anxious — these could have an adverse impact on a developing fetus. And obviously, suicidal feelings are another adverse risk associated with depression.”
Untreated major depression during pregnancy may also cause infants to have an increased sensitivity to stress.
Breastmilk And Antidepressantsis There A Concern
Some moms are worried about antidepressants making their way into breastmilk, which is understandable. Although many SSRIs, Zoloft in particular, are considered to be compatible with breastfeeding, I take that phrase with a huge grain of salt. As mentioned earlier, antidepressants can change the brain of an adult significantly. In adolescence, extra caution is given to antidepressants due to their association with increased suicidal thoughts and behavior in some cases. We just dont know the short-term or long-term effects on breastfeeding infants.
In sum, antidepressants are sometimes ineffective, they can cause side effects, and they may lead to unwanted brain changes. If youre uncomfortable with the idea of taking medication, read on to learn about how you can prevent or alleviate the symptoms of postpartum depression with natural treatments.
An Important Note:consult with your doctor before making any decisions, and dont stop taking your medication without medical support
Abruptly changing your dosage can cause disruptive and even dangerous side effects. Tapering off an SSRI can take weeks , but in my experience, the process is even longer. If youve been taking SSRIs for years, you may need months to slowly and safely get the medication out of your system. Perhaps surprisingly, Ive noticed it takes much longer to completely taper off from the lowest dose than it does to go from the highest dose down to the lowest.
How Often Does Depression During Pregnancy Happen
Between 14 and 23 percent of women will struggle with symptoms of depression during their pregnancy. About 1 in 4 women have depression at some point in their lifetime. About 1 in 7 women are treated for depression within the year before pregnancy and the year after pregnancy.
However, these numbers could be even higher, as many people who struggle with depression are reluctant to admit it or reach out for help.
Also Check: When To Take Medicine For Depression
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.
Natural Approaches To Depression In Pregnancy
Youre full of new life! Overjoyed, right?
Actually, if youre among the 1 in 10 or even more pregnant women who struggle with the symptoms of depression, then you might not be feeling overjoyed at all. While you may be happy to be pregnant, this may be overshadowed by cloudy feelings
I know it can be really tough to admit we’re depressed when everyone else thinks we should be ecstatic. Many women have told me they fear they will be judged by others as bad moms for admitting they feel miserable. And it can be terrifying to imagine taking care of a baby when you feel you can barely get a smile on for the day.
You may also feel very alone with your concerns.
Your midwife or doctor, and even your friends and family, might not recognize that youre depressed. Your symptoms may be mistaken as simply normal changes of pregnancy due to hormonal shifts and other physiologic changes. After all, fatigue, changes in eating habits, sleep problems, general aches and pains, changes in mood, irritability, and tearfulness all of these are normal during pregnancy, right?
The answer is sometimes, but not always. When mild and infrequent, these symptoms may be normal, but they are also classic signs of depression!
Recommended Reading: Partial Hospitalization Program For Depression
Effects On Baby And Mother Due To Depression
Risks of depression during pregnancy are equally distributed between the baby and mother.
A woman who is depressed during pregnancy might resort to drugs and alcohol. Both are incredibly harmful to the baby.
Risks for untreated anxiety and depression include preterm delivery and low birth weight.
The mother is at a higher risk of postpartum depression if she is dealing with depression while pregnant.
Bonding with the baby also is hard for her. She will not take care of her health and diet. It can lead to miscarriage. Stress can worsen the depression during pregnancy.
Open Up To Other Women In A Peer Support Group
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says that an estimated 14 to 23 percent of all women have one or more symptoms of depression during pregnancy.4 Peer support groups comprising other pregnant women suffering from antenatal depression can be extremely helpful. Just be sure to go to a group that has a trained counselor or staff facilitating and mediating the process.5
Also Check: How To Help Sibling With Depression
The Baby Blues Vs Postpartum Depression
But PPD and the so-called baby blues arent the same thing.
The baby blues affect up to 75 percent of mothers in the first 10 days following birth, but the symptomsusually mood swings and bouts of cryingare mild and dont last long.
Postpartum depression lasts much longer and is more deeply felt than the baby blues and can set in at any time during the first year following birth. Women with PPD may have trouble connecting with their baby, have doubts about their parenting abilities, develop sleep issues beyond the lack of sleep often associated newborn care, and may lose interest in activities they used to enjoy.
Postpartum psychosis is a psychiatric emergency. These mothers may have thoughts of hurting themselves or their baby and can develop hallucinations.
PPD is generally diagnosed through a screening questionnaire, most often the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale or the Postpartum Depression Screening Scale . Most studies estimate that postpartum depression affects 10 to 15 percent of postpartum women, but some estimates approach 30 percent.
Should I Take An Antidepressant
Whether to take an antidepressant is a complex and often tough decision. The evidence on the safety of these medications in pregnancy does show some risk of potential birth defects, and also withdrawal symptoms in baby after birth. You have to weight the potential benefit to you and the baby against medical risks of taking antidepressants in pregnancy. I address this thoroughly in Depression in Pregnancy: Should You Take Medications?.
For mild to moderate depression, natural approaches can be tried first, and are often all that is needed, but women should also consider being under the care of a midwife or obstetrician and a mental health provider simultaneously.
Women with moderate to severe depression, in addition to trying these 10 tips, should be under the care of a physician who specializes in prenatal depression. Medications are an option that should be considered in severe cases, or in moderate-severe cases where your health is at risk because you aren’t able to take care of yourself but in moderate-severe cases one can often try natural treatment for a few weeks first .
The new medicine for women as I call my whole women approach to Functional Medicine, includes the best combination of available strategies for individual women, used with wisdom and common sense.
Also Check: Can A Blood Test Detect Depression
Can Depression During Pregnancy Harm My Baby
One of the most asked questions pregnant moms have about depression is if it will affect their baby. The answer is unclear, and as a mother, I want to approach this question carefully. You did not ask for depression. It is not your fault. Worrying about outcomes you have little control over is not healthy for you or your baby.
However, if you can give yourself grace, and can find hope, you may want to know these things.
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My desktop reference for supporting women experiencing depression during pregnancy is Sandra J. Perkos Homeopathy for the Modern Pregnant Woman and Her Infant A Therapeutic Practice Guidebook for Midwives, Physicians, and Practitioners. It is a fabulously researched and organized reference. There are many other resources available online, too.
Online searches for indications for homeopathic medicines can be confusing at best for those not trained in homeopathy: How do you select the right from so many? It is not easy, indeed, much less when you are depressed.
While homeopathic principles can be taught and understood and homeopathy is used worldwide in homes every day, it may be wise to seek professional help in the case of depression during pregnancy. Certainly, I am glad I did!
Joining the 90 percent of women who do not experience depression during pregnancy is worth the effort. Both you and your child are worth it.
Recommended Reading: Will I Always Be Depressed
Pregnancy Depression And Medication
Women with more severe depression during pregnancy may need anti-depressant medicine. It is never an easy decision to take medication when you are pregnant, but oftentimes it is the right thing to do because being depressed can impact both your and your babyshealth.
You and your doctor must weigh the risk of untreated depression while pregnant versus the concerns of medicine affecting the baby. For many women, pregnancy depression might be managed without a prescription. But, for others, drugs are necessary.
Get More Sleep And Rest
More than one-third of American adults admit to not getting enough sleep, and I would bet that number is even higher among new moms. Large meta-analyses have found associations between sleep disturbances and depression in both the general adult population and in postpartum moms. Sleep depression and depression can create a vicious cycle, as each contributes to the other.
Getting enough sleep can seem impossible for new moms, especially in modern Western societies where women have less support than in previous generations. Sleeping when the baby sleeps is not always an option, but aim for it whenever possible.
If you are breastfeeding, not on any medications with drowsy side effects, and a nonsmoker, co-sleeping and side-lying nursing might be good options that offer more sleep. Despite what mainstream organizations want to claim, co-sleeping can be safely done. Check out the La Leche Leagues Safe Sleep Seven to find out how to create a safe sleeping environment for you and your baby.
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Does Depression Affect Your Pregnancy And The Baby
Depression during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, affect fetal growth and increase the chances of premature deliveries and low birth weight in babies. When left untreated, depression can develop into a postpartum depression that could last for months and even years affecting your health and bonding with the baby .
Exposure to maternal depression could lead to long-term effects in children, depending on their age. Babies could develop separation anxiety after birth and may have difficulty interacting with their mother, developing skills and being active.
So how do you know youre depressed?
- Lacking energy and feeling fatigued all the time
- Headaches, stomachaches, and other persistent symptoms
How To Treat Depression With Essential Oils
Aromatherapy is one of the safest, most effective, and often overlooked natural remedies for depression. There are a number of essential oils that can be used to quickly energize and lift your spirits, help you get a good night’s rest, and help balance your nervous system.
The benefits of using essential oils as natural remedies for depression versus prescription anti-depressants, is that when used in moderation they are:
- Fast-acting – Get instant relief with just one whiff!
- Non-habit forming – You can use them as often as you like or need without fear of addiction or withdrawal
- Safe – Metabolized and eliminated from the body within 24-48 hours
- Totally natural – Support your body without interfering with any of it’s normal functions
- Easy and practical – No visit to the doctor’s office or prescription required and no unpleasant side effects
- Versatile – Can be used in a variety of ways from inhalation through diffusion, baths, candles, or aromatherapy mister sprays, to massage and other forms of topical application. Best of all: they don’t have to be ingested to do their marvelous work!
Recommended Reading: What To Do When Starting To Feel Depressed
Is There An Association Between Ssri Use And Autism Spectrum Disorders
Three studies have examined the relationship between autism spectrum disorders and in utero SSRI exposure. None of these studies were able to control for the confounders thought to play a role in the development of autism spectrum disorders. These studies demonstrated a slightly increased risk of autism spectrum disorders with exposure to SSRIs however, the increased risk may be all, or least in part, due to these confounding variables.
Muscle Cramps During Pregnancy
Unfortunately, muscle cramps during pregnancy are pretty common . They typically happen at night while youre sleeping, which is extremely frustrating since sleep during pregnancy is already difficult.
Starting in my third trimester the lower half of my body decided that it would be fun to cramp up while I was trying to sleep. I would even have dreams my feet were cramped up, but then wake up and realize that it was actually happening. I swear, every muscle from the waist down has cramped up and had its own individualized cramping episode.
Curious as to what the experts said, I consulted two of my pregnancy texts Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn and The Pregnancy Book. These books suggested
- stretching the legs/calves before bed
- compression stockings
- staying off the feet during the day as much as possible and
- remedying a mineral imbalance in the body.
Also Check: How To Help Someone With Severe Depression And Suicidal Thoughts
Get Plenty Of Foods Rich In Iron Zinc And Vitamin C
With a baby on board, its especially important to ensure your diet has adequate amounts of all the nutrients you and your baby need. Iron and zinc deficiencies, in particular, have been associated with depression in some women. Vitamin C is also vital, not just for its multiple benefits, but as an aid for iron absorption.6 Here are some great foods you should try to incorporate into your meals:
- Vitamin C-Rich Foods: Citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, berries, spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, and potatoes.7
- Iron-Rich Foods: Dried fruit like prunes and raisins, dried beans, eggs, liver, lean red meat, poultry, oysters, tuna, salmon, and whole grains.8
- Zinc-Rich Foods: Lamb, beef, pork, poultry, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and yeast.9
What Causes Depression During Pregnancy
No one knows for sure, and depression is far from a guaranteed side effect of pregnancy. But it’s a pretty sure bet that those raging hormones play a significant role.
Hormones directly affect the brain chemistry that controls emotions and mood. Those same hormonal fluctuations that wreak premenstrual emotional havoc can lead to prenatal depression.
In fact, research has found that women who suffer from pronounced PMS are at greater risk for depression during pregnancy.
Genetics may play a role too. Depression tends to run in families. If anyone in your family has a history of depression or any other mood disorder, youre more susceptible to experiencing it too.
Add in one or more of the risk factors like those mentioned above, and you have all the potential ingredients for a case of depression.
In short, depression during pregnancy is usually the result of a combination of factors, not all of which are fully understood.
What is known is that depression doesnt happen because a woman did something wrong, and moms-to-be arent to blame for these emotional valleys. The important thing is understanding your risk factors, knowing the signs that you could be depressed, and seeking help when you need it.
Recommended Reading: Depression Rates Through The Years
Affect And Low Birth Weight
Recent evidence points more often to the role of maternal depressive symptoms in the etiology of LBW as compared with the etiology of PTB . The recent meta-analysis on depression in pregnancy, cited earlier, evaluated 20 studies and found that high depressive symptoms were associated with 1.4 to 2.9 times higher risk of LBW in undeveloped countries, and 1.2 times higher risk on average in the USA . Another recent review found relatively large effects of maternal depressive symptoms on infant birth weight across several studies, with the largest effects for low-income or low social status women and women of color . Furthermore, although there are few studies on diagnosed disorders, one study reported that mothers with a depressive disorder had 1.8 times greater risk of giving birth to a LBW infant . Thus, evidence appears to be stronger for contributions of depressive symptoms or disorder to slower growth of the fetus and LBW than to the timing of delivery or PTB, and these effects are pronounced for disadvantaged women . In contrast, very few studies have demonstrated any effects of anxiety on LBW, with rare exceptions .