What Is Prenatal Depression?
Prenatal depression, also known as perinatal depression, is a mood disorder similar to postpartum depression. It manifests as intense feelings of sadness, anxiety, and anger for women still experiencing pregnancy. It can be a severe condition when left unaddressed.
Expectant mothers can be treated for prenatal depression, but many aren’t aware the condition exists and don’t seek treatment. Often, women are expected to “glow” and feel delighted about being pregnant. Yet many women who experience the symptoms of prenatal depression feel guilt and shame when their actual feelings don’t match expectations.
This is why awareness is so essential.
Addressing prenatal depression can help improve the mother’s life, health, and sense of wellbeing.
Is Prenatal Depression Common?
Approximately 13% of pregnant women experience prenatal or postpartum depression, making it a relatively common condition. It can be even more apparent in women with a history of adversity, anxiety, or depression. Single mothers can be particularly vulnerable as they often have to deal with various stress factors such as health, finances, and lack of support. Additional risk factors can also include unintended pregnancy, a history of domestic abuse, smoking, alcohol, and a family history of depression.
At the same time, one should remember that prenatal depression can be experienced even by women with no apparent stressors or pre-existing risk factors. Therefore, there is no shame in experiencing severe bouts of depression during pregnancy. It can happen to anyone.
Symptoms of Prenatal Depression
Every woman experiences prenatal depression differently. It can even vary from one pregnancy to another. When you start feeling overwhelmed, have difficulty functioning, or just feel “off,” you should talk about this with a loved one or a medical provider.
Here are some common symptoms of prenatal depression to be aware of:
- Excessive worry and anxiety about your pregnancy
- Feelings of anger, hopelessness, or prolonged stress
- Suicidal thoughts
- Disinterest in keeping on top of prenatal health practices
- Difficulty sleeping
- Lack of focus
- Loss of interest in eating
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Pushing away others
- Unwillingness to be comforted or helped
How Prenatal Depression Can Affect Your Baby
While a mild case of prenatal depression may not directly harm your baby, some of the ways prenatal depression manifests may affect the pregnancy if not addressed promptly.
If your depression makes you neglect your diet, health, or ability to make it to medical appointments, that could lead to adverse effects on your baby. Some forms of prenatal depression make it difficult to gain weight during pregnancy and could lead to low birth rates and preterm deliveries. In other cases, more severe instances of perinatal depression can contribute to sleep issues with your baby during their first two years.
Also, women who experience prenatal depression are at risk of experiencing postpartum depression, affecting their ability to bond with their baby after birth.
How To Treat Prenatal Depression
The good news is that treatment is both possible and readily available. In addition, you don’t have to deal with prenatal depression alone.
Here are the most common ways prenatal depression can be treated:
- Therapy is usually the first option your healthcare provider will suggest. Many therapists can see you virtually if making an in-person appointment is difficult. Talking things over with a trained professional can have a measurable effect on managing prenatal depression.
- Medication is also an option—usually in partnership with therapy. Most medications for depression are considered safer than letting prenatal depression go untreated. But, again, your healthcare provider should be able to provide you with more information.
- Self-care is something you can do to help control your depression and is not difficult to implement. Consider getting some light exercise, practicing quiet meditation or yoga, or writing out your feelings in a private notebook.
- Communication can be a powerful tool for battling prenatal depression. Try talking about your feelings and concerns with a loved one, trusted friend, or family member. Also, know that support groups are available both online and near you.
Heartbeat of Toledo Is Here For You
Prenatal depression—or any kind of depression—can be a challenge for anyone. In addition, it can lead to other health problems for pregnant women if left untreated. That’s why it’s crucial to have the support of family, friends, and community.
Heartbeat of Toledo is a life-affirming organization whose mission is to be the best source of information and support to women facing pregnancies and to help moms, dads, and babies in need. Call today for immediate assistance. (419) 241-9131