Are you one of those soon-to-be-moms who had a bout of misery and panic attack when you found out you were pregnant? Did you ever feel guilty for being so unhappy about the supposedly good news? Then this article is for you. Let us find out the ‘whys’ and the ‘hows’ of pregnancy depression and how we can deal with them.
When you realize that your physical exhaustion has been too much lately, or you want to sleep more often than expected, or that you feel terrified thinking about what might happen to you and the baby, you may be experiencing prenatal depression. But be assured that you are not alone. Studies have shown that one out of ten expecting women suffer from depression at some point of their pregnancy. Generally, there is an overflow of hormones during pregnancy which may be coupled with feelings of anxiety, irritability, and chronic sadness. These emotions make pregnant women susceptible to depression, an illness that needs to be addressed.
Are You At Risk?
“Depression is exhausting to the person suffering from it. Just accomplishing the bare minimum can seem like too much work.” Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC explains. Almost all expecting mothers are not spared from anxiety and depression, but women who have a family history of mental disorders are more at risk of having it. Being a young mother can also contribute to experiencing a depressive disorder. Studies have shown that teenage moms who lack mental, emotional and financial support face higher stress and tension levels which may lead to mental health illnesses. They are also more prone to post traumatic stress disorders and suicidal ideations. Additionally, pregnancy complications such as urinary tract infection, gestational diabetes, anemia, and hypertension can cause heightened levels of anxiety and may lead to a major depressive disorder. Living alone, having low income, and being divorced or widowed are also some of the risk factors of pregnancy depression.
How Bad Can It Be?
Most expecting mothers would rather go through their pregnancy without doing anything about their depression, thinking that this, too, shall pass. But the consequences of leaving pregnancy depression untreated pose more dangers to the mother and the baby. Studies suggest that too much exposure to cortisol, a stress hormone, may affect the baby’s growth hormones and impair its brain development. Adverse fetal outcomes, premature birth and respiratory distress after birth are also some of the most common complications that the baby may experience. On the other hand, being pregnant and depressed puts you at greater risk of preterm delivery, preeclampsia, postpartum depression, and ultimately suicide.
What Can Be Done?
According to Charmaine J. Simmons, LPC, “Depression is an incredibly complex disease caused by a combination of biological, psychological and sociological factors.” If you are pregnant and experiencing symptoms of depression, DO NOT BE ASHAMED to ask for help. Here are some safe treatment options that you can do to safely manage and deal with the dangers of pregnancy depression.
- Antidepressants. Pregnant women are reluctant to take medications to treat depression. That would be the most normal reaction, right? But for those with more severe symptoms, your doctor would more likely recommend that you take antidepressants. Though there have been some research about the effects of taking antidepressants during pregnancy, experts say that untreated depression poses more dangers than taking them. Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Celexa, and Paxil are some of the most popular antidepressants that can be prescribed for clinically depressed moms.
- Non-medicinal treatment options. For pregnant women with mild to moderate depression, there are alternative therapies that are otherwise effective in decreasing or getting rid of depressive symptoms.
Light therapy. This method is done by exposing expectant mothers to artificial sunlight for one hour a day, slowing the production of the sleep hormone melatonin and altering an individual’s sleep wake cycle. Bright light therapy has shown a significant success in treating seasonal depression. Additionally, in a study involving 16 pregnant women, 13 have been found to have improvement of their symptoms by 50%.
Mindfulness Techniques. “Mindfulness meditation practices are effective interventions, and sometimes for mild to moderate conditions—depression and anxiety—super-effective as front lines,” says Saundra Jain, MA, PsyD, LPC. Mindfulness therapy is incorporated into conventional cognitive therapy such as gentle yoga and guided meditation exercises. It has been found to help soon-to-be-moms tune into their inner selves. Breast cancer patients have also benefited from regular yoga therapy.
Mood boosters. Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has shown significant positive effects not only on alleviating depressive symptoms in pregnant women but also preventing postpartum depression.
Psychotherapy. The most popular psychological treatment for depressive disorders is cognitive behavioral therapy, where patients are asked to focus on the present concerns and issues that they are currently facing. Specific tools are utilized to teach them how to challenge unwanted behaviors and alter negative thoughts. CBT has been proven to be effective in treating depression and panic disorders.
Lifestyle changes. Whatever treatment regimen you may be following, it is always essential to take care of yourself by changing your bad habits and transforming them into healthy ones. Get enough rest and eat a balanced diet. Regular small snacks never fail to lift the spirits. Engage in a mild physical activity like walking, just to release those good endorphins. Finally, never be ashamed to talk to a therapist. Taking steps to rid yourself of your depression doesn’t mean you’re not strong. It only means you are an expectant mother who wants what’s best for you and your baby.