Depression is a type of mood disorder in which the affected person suffers from prolonged sadness and loss of interest in daily chores. The symptoms last for one week or more. Although pregnancy is supposed to be the most joyous period in a woman’s life and a time of emotional well being, unfortunately for some it is a period of emotional distress. Some women with an excess stress are unable to cope with the extra demands of pregnancy. At least 7 to 20 percent women are known to suffer from prenatal depression.
Mood disorders have an association with biological changes in brain chemistry. Pregnancy brings about lots of hormonal changes. These changes are known to cause depression and anxiety. Certain difficult life situations such as living in poverty, unplanned pregnancy, attending depending children, relationship problems etc can further exacerbate the symptoms of depression.
Depression during pregnancy can remarkably affect the health of pregnant woman as well as the fetus. Hence treatment is essential. Mild form of antenatal depression can be managed with psychotherapy and light therapy. A pregnant woman with severe form of depression may need psychotherapy as well as medications.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Prenatal Depression
No one knows exactly for sure what actually leads to depression during pregnancy. But it is believed pregnancy hormones are the major factors in contributing ups and downs of pregnancy related depression. Following factors enhance the risk for development of depression in a pregnant woman:
- Hormones: Hormonal changes during pregnancy have direct impact of brain chemistry. Mood and emotions have an association with chemicals in brain. Any turbulence in these chemicals can lead to mood disorder which also includes depression.
- A woman having history of depression in past or someone in the family suffering from chronic depression is at greater risk of antenatal depression.
- Relationship problems with partner during pregnancy can exacerbate emotional behavior.
- Discontinuation of medicines for pre existing psychological condition without consulting physician can worsen the symptoms.
- Stressful events in life such as an impending divorce, memories surrounding poor parenting, abuse, domestic violence, death in family during pregnancy etc.
- Unwanted pregnancy can cause severe mental disturbance.
- Difficulty in getting pregnant and previous history of abortion and miscarriage can increase anxiety.
- Previous history of abuse.
- Lack of support from family and partner.
Signs And Symptoms Of Prenatal Depression
Often it is difficult to identify antenatal depression as the symptoms appear to be those of normal pregnancy symptoms such as disturbed sleep, change in appetite, inability to concentrate, lack of interest in intercourse etc. However, in prenatal depression the symptoms are more overwhelming, lasting for more than two weeks and often affecting the daily life of the woman.
Following are the symptoms mainly present in antenatal depression:
- Sadness and depressed mood throughout the day.
- Crying without any specific reason.
- Withdrawal from surrounding, avoids meeting family and friends.
- Extremely irritable all the time.
- Frequent desire to eat food or there is no desire to eat.
- Disproportional fatigue and weakness.
- Sleep problems and insomnia.
- Loss of interest in regular activities and daily chores.
- Constant feeling that he/she is worthless in the family and society.
- Suicidal thoughts.
- Not taking medicines properly.
- Cigarette smoking and drinking alcohol during pregnancy.
Natural Ways To Deal With Depression While Pregnant
Often pregnant woman do not pay much attention to symptoms of antenatal depression. Treatment is essential as delay is harmful for baby as well as for the mother. If the condition remains untreated it can have grave consequences. There are several treatment modes available.
Mild to moderate depression can be cured with simple psychotherapy which includes talk therapy, light therapy, acupuncture and meditation. In case of severe depression medications may become essential. They are mostly anti depressant medicines.
Several natural ways also help to relieve antenatal depression:
- Exercise: Exercise is known to increase feel good hormones and thus will help to reduce depressed feeling.
- Regular eight hours sleep and an additional hour nap in afternoon is exceptionally beneficial for pregnant woman in coping with depression.
- There are many foods that can affect mood. Pregnant woman must avoid too much of coffee, sugar, processed foods.
- Eating green leafy vegetables and fresh fruits, regular intake of warm milk, is also beneficial as they contain good amount of vitamins.