Pregnancy and Depression

While pregnancy can be a joyous time for many, not all mothers-to-be experience a happy pregnancy glow. In fact, many women struggle with depression during their pregnancy yet are reluctant to admit their suffering.

Because symptoms of depression are often attributed to the pregnancy itself, such as shifts in mood or a decrease in energy, they are often overlooked during pregnancy check-ups. Depression experienced during pregnancy is referred to as perinatal depression, although women are at risk of developing postpartum depression after childbirth as well.

While your condition may require the use of antidepressant medications to cope with symptoms, you may also benefit from enrolling in therapy sessions during and after pregnancy. Nonetheless, it is best that you speak with a medical professional to ensure you are receiving the correct treatment. Suffering in silence is detrimental to your health and places your baby at risk of developing serious health issues during pregnancy. Learn how to identify the most common signs of pregnancy-induced depression.

What is perinatal depression?

Perinatal depression, or depression occurring during pregnancy, is common amongst millennial women. According to a study conducted by the American Medical Association, the number of millennial women suffering from perinatal depression is 51 percent higher than the number of pregnant women who had displayed symptoms of depression in past generations. This form of depression presents itself in different ways, many of which vary from one woman to the next. However, common signs of the disorder include a lack of emotional connection to the fetus, loneliness, changes in mood and sleep disruption.

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If you are experiencing potential symptoms of perinatal depression, then speak with your doctor about the feelings you are having to ensure you are receiving the proper support and treatment. It may be possible that you are experiencing a heightened level of lethargy or sporadic mood swings due to a change in hormones. Regardless, it is best that you seek medical advice. If you are pregnant, then you may benefit from speaking to a therapist to address any concerns about what to expect once your baby arrives.

Who is at risk of developing perinatal depression?

While any pregnant woman can develop perinatal depression, certain factors can put women at a higher risk. For example, millennial women who experience high levels of stress from student loan debt or feel disconnected from others their own age are more likely to develop the disorder. Those who have previously been diagnosed with depression, anxiety disorders or other mental health illnesses are more likely to carry these symptoms over into their pregnancy as well. Social and economic factors, such as financial instability or a limited social life, may also place women at a higher risk of developing perinatal depression.

Added stress from the pregnancy itself may trigger the development of perinatal depression, especially in women who experience high-risk pregnancies or complications during pregnancy. Highly stressful life events can also be problematic for pregnancies and cause depression. If any symptoms occur, it is important that women consult their physicians, regardless of their predisposition to this disorder. By establishing this dialogue in advance, women can recognize symptoms that arrive later on.

What is postpartum depression?

Some women experience depression post-pregnancy even if they did not suffer through perinatal depression prior to giving birth. Postpartum depression is better known, as approximately 15 percent of women across various age groups and socio-economic backgrounds suffer from the illness. Typically, women develop depression within the first year of giving birth to their child and may find it difficult to bond with their child during this period. The symptoms of postpartum depression are like those attributed to perinatal depression and may be troubling to identify.

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If you have recently had a child and are experiencing a heightened level of loneliness, sadness or exhaustion, then speak with your doctor about receiving care for postpartum depression. You may need antidepressant medication for these symptoms, as they can become severe over time. If you suffered through perinatal depression, then you are at an increased risk of developing postpartum depression. You may want to continue your current treatment plan to ensure your symptoms do not worsen once the baby arrives.

How to Treat Depression During and After Pregnancy

Treatment for depression both during and after your pregnancy can vary. The easiest way of identifying the symptoms and receiving the proper care for perinatal depression is to speak about your feelings during your pregnancy screenings. Your doctor will most likely provide you with a questionnaire to answer during your check-up, at which point you can mark down any depression symptoms you are experiencing. This may include a decreased appetite, lack of interest in your work or hobbies or a general disconnect from the world around you. Be sure to express any concerns you have about your mental health, along with any concerns you have about your physical health.

Elective therapy and the use of antidepressant drugs are common in the treatment of both perinatal and postpartum depression. Even if you believe you can treat your symptoms without the aid of a medical professional, it is best to discuss your feelings to ensure the overall well-being of yourself and your child. Research shows that children born to women suffering from perinatal depression are often underweight, as the added stress placed on a woman’s body directly affects the development of the child in the womb.

If you need to seek treatment for perinatal depression, then contact your insurance provider to determine the level of coverage you receive for therapy sessions. Then, find a therapist covered within your designated network. If you took antidepressants before you became pregnant, then speak with your doctor about the dosage you are currently taking and whether this may need to be adjusted over the course of your pregnancy. You may need to increase or decrease your dosage depending on the side-effects it may induce.

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