[Pregnancy and Depression Video from Fusion ]
Pregnancy is a beautiful experience. Motherhood has been celebrated as the rite of passage for women for centuries as a ceremonial occasion for the creation of new life. There is so much joy to be had during this time. Preparing to bring a new life into this world. A new baby to nurture. Your baby to nurture. Although there are countless bonding moments and tears of joy and excitement, depression during pregnancy can pose as a disheartening setback during this precious time in your life.
What is Antepartum Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that affects 1 in 4 women. Antepartum depression occurs when a woman experiences depression during pregnancy. There are incredible amounts of hormone changes occurring in a woman’s body during pregnancy, which may cause an upset hormonal balance leading to depression. Depression can result in unpredictable mood issues and interfere with functions in everyday day life if not properly cared for.
Antepartum Depression vs. Postpartum Depression
Although both antepartum and postpartum depression affects your mood greatly, there are a few differences between the two forms of depression.
First, antepartum depression occurs during pregnancy, whereas postpartum depression occurs after the baby is born. Antepartum depression during pregnancy is usually characterized by persistent feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, worthlessness, guilt, loss of sleep, loss of interest in hobbies, loss of interest in socializing and frequent crying for many and unknown reasons.
Postpartum depression is a little more severe and affects both mother and child. Postpartum depression leaves a mother feeling distant from her baby, having thoughts of harming herself or her baby, isolating herself from loved ones, and doubting her ability to care for the baby.
What Contributes to Depression During Pregnancy?
As mentioned before, depression during pregnancy can be caused by hormonal changes occurring in the body while carrying the baby. However, there are other factors that can contribute to depression during pregnancy.
Discomfort during sleep and changing sleep patterns can also lead to antepartum depression. When the mother’s body is not well-rested, the expecting mother may become more vulnerable to depression. Change in appetite and craving unhealthy foods can contribute to depression as well.
Women whose family has a history of depression and anxiety in general, or a history of depression while pregnant are likely more susceptible to depression. Lack of family and friend’s support during pregnancy can also lead to increased stress for the mother. In severe cases, domestic violence, poor relationship with the father and low income are all also stressors that can contribute to depression during pregnancy.
Symptoms of Depression During Pregnancy
It’s normal for pregnant women to feel pessimistic and worried every once in a while, especially if this is their first child and they don’t know what to expect. However, if you find that your negative feelings are persistent and last for weeks, you may be suffering from antepartum depression. Other antepartum depression symptoms to be aware of include:
Loss of energy and interest in hobbies
Loss of appetite
Trouble making decisions
Overwhelming feelings of guilt, worthlessness, hopelessness
Constant feelings of anxiety or feeling of emptiness
If you notice any of these symptoms within yourself or someone close to you, it’s important to see a doctor and schedule an examination right away. Untreated depression can cause problems with childbirth, as well as cause recurring issues after your pregnancy.
Risks of Untreated Depression During Pregnancy
Depression during pregnancy can lead to potentially dangerous complications with delivery, as well as directly affecting the expecting mother’s life and making her more vulnerable to stress and depression in the future.
To begin with, depression and anxiety can lead to high blood pressure in the mother. Increased blood pressure can cause preeclampsia, which is the term for high blood pressure during pregnancy. This can restrict your blood flow, as well as blood flow to the baby, causing premature birth or organ damage. Preeclampsia is relatively rare and does not cause damage if the mother is committed to attending her perinatal appointments.
Another risk of untreated antepartum depression during pregnancy is that it puts the mother at risk for postpartum depression. Postpartum depression can be harmful to the baby and mother alike, causing emotional damage and possibly physical harm to the mother and baby.
Untreated depression during pregnancy can also cause birthing complications, such as premature birth and low-weight. Furthermore, depression can directly affect the baby while the mother is pregnant because the baby can feel the mother’s tension and stress. An expecting mother’s lack of appetite can cause her baby to not receive the proper nutrients it needs to develop properly.
Stigma Surrounding Depression During Pregnancy and Postpartum Depression
Ashamed for Not Feeling Joyful
As you know, pregnancy is framed by society as a spiritual experience and a woman’s rite of passage for bringing new life into the world. However, it’s not often that you hear women openly discussing their depression during pregnancy. This is because women’s feelings of sadness during and after pregnancy are often dismissed as hormonal imbalances that will go away on their own. With the pressure from society to feel enlightened, joyful and through-the-roof with excitement for the new baby, women may feel ashamed or guilty for feeling depressed during this time. Women can also be frowned upon for taking depression medications during pregnancy, fearful that others will shame her as a mother endangering her unborn child.
It’s Not Possible to Just Shake it off
When women express their feelings to loved ones, some may dismiss it as a hormonal imbalance or just as the baby blues and say that it will pass. Women may be lead to believe this statement of the baby blues to be true, and neglect to treat their depression during pregnancy. Again, if feelings of hopelessness and sadness persist, please don’t allow yourself or your unborn child to suffer any longer and seek a professional healthcare provider right away.
Shame Causes Women to Suffer in Silence
Societal expectations often lead to many women experiencing depression during pregnancy to suppress their feelings and suffer in silence. Countless expectant mothers display a pleasant attitude as they quietly endure immense emotional pain. They suffer quietly and they suffer alone with no emotional support from neither family nor friends due to shame. Unfortunately, the mother and child are the ones to undergo the possible consequences and risks of untreated depression during pregnancy on account of the mother’s cultural expectations.
Women experiencing depression should not feel alone or ashamed because between 14 and 23 percent of women will experience some symptoms of depression during pregnancy. If you are experiencing shame due to depression during pregnancy it is important to be true to how you are feeling. Follow your instincts. Be the advocate for yourself and your unborn child. Tell your doctor. You do not need to tell your friends or your family if you are not comfortable because everything between you and your doctor is confidential per law.
Diagnosis of Depression During Pregnancy
Depression during pregnancy is usually screened in the same manner used to detect depression in a person who is not pregnant. Your doctor will likely ask you questions and use your answers to lead to a diagnosis. Your healthcare provider may also perform blood tests that could possibly detect medical conditions that could be the cause of the depression or may detect vitamin deficiencies that could also be the cause of depression.
Common Treatments for Depression During Pregnancy
If you are suffering from depression during pregnancy, there are many effective ways for you to get help and treat your depression.
Talking with women who are experiencing the same symptoms and struggles as you can give you perspective and a sense of community. Remember, you are not alone. Support groups can aid greatly in your treatment and your understanding of how you are feeling. Having people to lean on and connect with during this time in life is necessary, as pregnancy is a life-changing event that comes with great pressure and anxiety.
A great therapist will be able to provide you with insight as to why you may be feeling this way, as well as equip you with the mental tools to conquer your depression and anxiety. These tools will help you and empower you to combat your depression after pregnancy as well.
An interesting and effective treatment is light therapy. Light therapy is when the expecting mother, spends one hour each morning in front of a specialized artificial light. This therapy is effective because, intense, bright light slows the onset of the evening production of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin and is believed to help reset your circadian rhythm, which controls everything from sleep-wake cycle to hormonal fluctuations.
Medication should be discussed in depth with your health care provider to ensure that it is safe for your baby. It is recommended to try medication if you are having suicidal thoughts and if other forms of therapy are not alleviating your symptoms.
Natural Treatments for Depression During Pregnancy
If you are leaning more towards the natural treatments of depression during pregnancy, there are many natural techniques in which your depression can be treated:
Get plenty of sleep:
Although this can be tough with bodily discomfort during pregnancy, it’s important to rest your body so that it may heal and perform at its best. Try implementing a relaxing bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath or meditating before bed.Avoid electronics before bed, as the blue light from the devices will disrupt your sleep cycle. A calming routine will help you to wind down and let your body know that it is time to rest.
Yoga and meditation:
Both yoga and meditation are re-centering activities that implement awareness and deep breathing. These are relaxing activities that can bring relief to your body as well as your mind. Try joining a yoga class, or researching guided yoga and meditation online.
Exercise naturally increases levels of serotonin (a mood-controlling chemical in the brain) making you feel happier and more energized. Get your heart pumping with a pregnancy workout, there are plenty of videos online for you to access.
Diets high in artificial sugars, carbohydrates, and caffeine can affect your body’s strength and your state of mind. Ensure that your body is getting enough:
- Vitamin C – Foods like berries, citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach
- Iron – Foods like eggs, tuna, salmon, whole grains and dried fruit
- Zinc – Foods like nuts, beef, pork
Omega-3 fatty acids:
Omega-3s have incredible health benefits, and they provide DHA to the mother which is critical for healthy brain function. Eating these foods can boost your mood and also decrease your risk of postpartum depression. Omega-3s can be found in salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seeds, soybean oil, kale, and spinach.
Acupuncture can provide relief to mothers experiencing depression during pregnancy.
Getting plenty of probiotics in your diet is extremely important. A healthy gut has an effect on brain health and function. Greek yogurt is a wonderful source of live and active cultures that will keep your gut healthy and your mind happy.
Essential oils are derived from plants and are very concentrated and highly effective. Lavender essential oil is beneficial in calming the body. When applied topically, it is absorbed by the skin and its healing powers can work in as little as five minutes. It can lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety and stress, help support sleep as well as support healthy brain function.
To use lavender oil on skin:
Apply 2-3 drops of lavender essential oil on your wrists or to the bottom of your feet. Not only will the aroma calm you, but the lavender oil will enter your bloodstream and work wonders for your body.
To diffuse lavender oil:
Filling a room with the scent of lavender oil is also an effective method. To do so, warm up a pot of water on your stove (do not boil) and let it steam or you can easily use an oil diffuser. Add 5-10 drops of lavender oil and the aroma will fill your house, creating a relaxing spa-like atmosphere.
It’s vital that you treat yourself in all aspects as you prepare to bring a new life into this world. Taking wonderful care of yourself is equivalent to looking after your baby, as your health will directly affect your child’s health. Do not be ashamed to seek help. Try every method available to you and be open about how you are feeling. Chances are, there are women out there waiting for a mother like you to share their story. Take this time in your life to learn and inspire others in their pregnancy journey. Depression during pregnancy is more common than people think, and with proper attention and care can be overcome.