For most women, pregnancy is one of the most exciting and happy times in their lives. However unfortunately, some women may also experience various negative emotions such as fear, anxiety and depression. Statistics show that about 14 to 23 percent of women battle with depressive symptoms during pregnancy.
Depression is classified as a mood disorder. It is known to affect 1 in 4 females at some time during their lives. This explains the likelihood of depression occurring even during pregnancy.
However the diagnosis of depression is not always done properly in pregnant women. This is because the symptoms are assumed to be a part of the hormonal changes taking place in the body. This can prove to be serious for the mother and baby. The good news is that depression can be treated quite easily during pregnancy. The most important step is to seek help.
Depression during pregnancy is also referred to as antepartum depression and is much like clinical depression. Mood disorders are categorized as biological conditions that occur due to alterations in brain chemistry. During pregnancy there are considerable hormonal changes which occur in the body and these may sometimes affect certain brain chemicals which are associated with depression. When these changes occur in conjunction with stressful life situations, the woman may experience feelings of depression. There are certain signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy. These include persisting feelings of sadness, sleep disturbances, anxiety and inability to concentrate properly. The woman may also experience a loss of interest in usually enjoyable activities and may suffer from feelings of low self worth. In some cases there may be changes in appetite and eating habits. In severe cases, there may be thoughts of death or suicide. Depression during pregnancy may be triggered by certain factors such as conflict in relationships, previous miscarriages, pregnancy complications and infertility treatments. A family history of depression or past episodes of depression may also make a woman prone to the disorder. Depression may also occur in women with a history of abuse.
If left untreated, depression during pregnancy can have some adverse effects on the fetus and mother. Depression can cause the woman to neglect her nutrition and she may also become dependent on alcohol, cigarette or drugs. This can have severe and dangerous effects on the developing baby. Premature birth, low birth weight and birth defects are some of the problems that occur. Depression can also lead to a reduced desire in caring for oneself and the developing baby. The woman may also lack the strength and energy necessary for this. It has been seen that babies born to women who suffer from depression are less active. They also tend to be more irritable. Therefore it is highly essential for the mother and baby that the correct treatment is received.
Women who feel that they may be experiencing depression should seek help as soon as possible. It is advisable to discuss the symptoms with a doctor so that treatment options may be recommended. Treatment for depression during pregnancy may include psychotherapy, support group and medication. With regard to medication, there are some concerns about the long term effects and the impact on the pregnancy. Some studies indicate that certain medications may be associated with complications in newborn babies such as low birth weight, physical abnormalities, heart problems and pulmonary hypertension. In cases of depression that is mild or moderate, psychotherapy and support groups is helpful. Medication usually becomes necessary when depression is severe. It may be used along with psychotherapy. Any type of medication penetrates the placenta and there is no definitive evidence about which medications are completely safe and which are potentially dangerous. Therefore it is essential to examine the benefits and risks thoroughly. Only those medications which are most effective and involve the most minimal risk to the fetus should be considered.
There are also some natural ways to manage depression during pregnancy. Exercise is greatly beneficial in reducing negative feelings because it elevates serotonin levels and reduces cortisol levels. It is advisable to speak to a doctor regarding which exercises are helpful during pregnancy. It is also important to get adequate rest and sleep as this equips the body to deal with daily stresses. Adhering to a regular sleep schedule is helpful. A healthy, balanced diet is essential for maintaining strength and energy levels. Foods such as caffeine, processed foods, additives and low protein can worsen the condition and hence must be avoided. Some studies show that intake of omega 3 fatty acids helps in treating symptoms of depression. Some women obtain relief with alternative therapies such as acupuncture. Herbal remedies may also help in improving mood. However it is advisable to consult a doctor before using any herbal supplements as some of them may not be recommended for pregnant women.
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