While some women consider pregnancy as one of the happiest times in their lives, others recall it as a time of irrational fear, doubts, and insecurity. People around often don’t attach much importance to the pregnant woman’s subdued behavior, thinking it’s just hormonal imbalance which is a typical condition during pregnancy. But add some widespread social problems here – and the future mother’s melancholy will turn into the condition called “depression during pregnancy”.
The signs and symptoms of depression should cause worry among the pregnant woman’s family and medical experts monitoring her condition. The emotional state of a future mother is important: it affects not only her state of health but also the development of her baby.
In order to protect yourself from a lot of troubles, it’s important to know how to confront depression during pregnancy.
Pregnant and depressed: main causes of the problem
Antenatal depression, and that’s the proper medical term for this condition, is a more serious issue than usual mood swings. This clinical condition needs timely detection and treatment.
The signs of this disorder can significantly vary from the quite innocent absence of appetite to suicide attempts.
The biological process causing antenatal depression induces changes in brain chemistry. The hormonal changes during pregnancy affect brain chemistry and lead to depression and anxiety attacks.
The physiological causes of depression while pregnant can be intensified by a hard situation in life. In this case, it’s even harder to pull the depressed pregnant woman out of her misery.
The probability of depression during pregnancy doesn’t depend on the expectant mother’s age: this problem is common among both very young women and middle-aged future mothers.
Besides, depression can become an issue even in early pregnancy terms – it’s of major importance to detect the condition in time and call for help. The successful identification depends on how informed a future mother is about this problem and on the care she receives from her family and friends. Remember: depression during the early terms is a common occurrence.
Researchers have ascertained that the presence of the following factors in medical history increases the possibility of depression during pregnancy:
- Tense relationship with the baby’s father (the atmosphere in the family plays an important part in the future mother’s mental health: if the father of the child can’t take responsibility for the family the female psyche takes a turn for the worse);
- Genetic predisposition (if the pregnant woman’s mother had antenatal depression the risk increases);
- Infertility treatment (when a woman has been treated for infertility for a long time the feeling of desperation doesn’t always quickly switch over to happiness because of the upcoming motherhood);
- Miscarriages or stillbirths in the medical history. Such events are always painful and lead to negative aftermath. The depression after stillbirth is very common. A pregnant woman is afraid that her current pregnancy will also have a tragic outcome;
- Stressful circumstances (a woman can’t decide what to do; she has a feeling that her life is hopeless – that can cause resentment towards the unborn baby and pregnancy in general. The problems which cause such a state are often the lack of money, unemployment, or horrible living conditions);
- Complications during the course of pregnancy (preeclampsia, toxemia, or congenital malformations of the baby. Sometimes pregnancy makes the woman give up her preferred lifestyle – as a consequence, she feels inferior);
- Intoxications or traumas. Bad habits, such as alcohol abuse, as well as previous traumatic brain injuries don’t pass without a trace – in both cases the brain chemistry is disrupted which leads to the development of depression during pregnancy.
How to detect depression during pregnancy?
The very beginning of this mental disorder is hard to detect. However, there are some major signs and symptoms of depression during pregnancy. One of them is a complete disregard of personal hygiene. The pregnant and depressed woman doesn’t pay any attention to the state she is in.
The depressed future mother also shows total indifference to her baby’s development. An unwanted pregnancy is the cause of such behavior. A perfectly healthy expectant mother is enthusiastic about giving birth to a healthy child. She reads a lot of literature about pregnancy and childcare, consults experts about the correct behavior during pregnancy, and tries to learn as much as possible.
Constant crying is another symptom of depression during pregnancy. The woman is always on the verge of tears even if she doesn’t have a reason for being upset. Most pregnant and depressed future mothers enter such a state with being petulant: they demand satisfaction of every their whim, and can’t keep calm after receiving a negative answer. The hysterical fit ends in aggression or violence, sometimes – in a strong need to be alone.
The depressed expectant mother feels unbearable hopelessness. The unborn baby is regarded as a burden which interferes with the woman’s career, takes a lot of time, and becomes a reason for bad physical shape.
You can easily notice such an attitude to life when a pregnant woman shares her thoughts on the issue. Total silence is an alarming symptom as well. Sometimes a woman is also prone to isolation, doesn’t want to see her friends, family, and medical experts. It is another widespread symptom of depression during pregnancy.
An untreated depression may lead to such complications as:
- Reduced appetite;
- Physical exhaustion;
- Suicidal thoughts and behavior;
- Aggression which often ends in cardiovascular diseases or neurological disorders;
- Premature birth;
- Insufficient newborn’s weight;
- Problems with physical and mental development of the child after birth.
There are two main types of depression during pregnancy:
- The future mother is constantly subdued; she often lacks strength of desire to care for herself and her soon-to-be-born baby;
- The pregnant woman is anxious which makes it hard for a health professional to provide her with necessary aid. The aggression felt by the mother affects the fetus. Such a condition often becomes a cause for antidepressants prescription. But women who were taking antidepressants during pregnancy have admitted the difficulties their children had at school, their slow physical development and morbidity.
Don’t mistake depression during pregnancy for a bad mood!
A bad mood is considerably shorter in time. It’s usually expressed by complaining about an irritant. The number of possible irritants depends on how vulnerable a pregnant woman is. Remove the irritant – and the bad mood will subside.
The complaining during a bad mood won’t include suicidal thoughts. The appetite is usually not reduced – it’s even increased! The pregnant woman reacts to her problems with stress eating.
Depression during pregnancy is a far bigger problem. You can’t misinterpret it for a simple “bad mood”.
Here are the most common symptoms of depression during pregnancy:
- The pregnant woman limits her social life;
- She refuses food;
- She has concentration difficulties;
- A future mother suffers from sleeping disorders (insomnia or constant sleepiness);
- The pregnant woman loses interest in all her favorite activities;
- She is often thinking about death, suicide, or has a general feeling of hopelessness;
- A woman experiences fits of anxiety;
- She feels guilty or worthless;
- She suffers from lasting headaches or digestive tract disorders;
- A future mother doesn’t attend an antenatal clinic;
- She doesn’t follow doctor’s orders;
- Substance abuse (alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs);
- A woman tries to get rid of her baby.
How to treat depression during pregnancy?
There are a lot of effective means of treatment. But in the majority of cases, depressed future mothers just don’t ask for professional help. At the same time, they don’t know how to overcome their depression.
It’s necessary to change your way of living! Take care of not only your physical health but also your mental state.
If you’re depressed some things will need to change:
- Spend more time resting. When you’re tired your mood swings intensify;
- Get more fresh air. Time spent in the countryside reduces stress and symptoms of depression;
- Follow a well-balanced pregnancy diet! Have a snack to maintain a healthy blood sugar level. Avoid drinking coffee during pregnancy. Don’t consume too much sugar. Try eating more products that contain omega 3 fatty acids instead (walnuts, fish, eggs) – they reduce the risk of slipping into depression during pregnancy;
- Do pregnancy exercises! Physical activity will give you some endorphins and you’ll become happier. Regular exercises are as effective a treatment as antidepressants;
- Try to keep calm and avoid stressful situations. Don’t take dramatic changes in your usual lifestyle, such as quitting your job or moving to a new house.
Don’t try to solve the problem on your own. You are not alone! Share your feelings with your family, friends, a doctor, or find a support group. If you’re scared of becoming a mother and think you’ll fail your child, you’re afraid of the unknown or of anything else – don’t keep it all inside. Let your loved ones help you!
A lot of women make a mistake thinking that depression during pregnancy is something you should be ashamed of. It’s completely wrong! In fact, admitting you have a problem and asking for professional help is a sign of strength and a great step on the way to recovery.