You are not alone if you are struggling with anxiety, sadness, or baby blues. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in eight women will experience prenatal or postpartum depression. It’s not your fault. The hormonal changes you’re experiencing during this period can affect your brain chemicals. This can bring on new depression symptoms or make them return. Morning sickness, fatigue, and mood swings are also common side effects of pregnancy that can worsen your mood and mask your underlying depression.
You should look out for the signs and symptoms of depression if you have any of the following risk factors:
- A history of mood disorders in your lifetime, especially during previous pregnancies
- Family history of mood disorders
- An unplanned pregnancy
- Giving birth to multiple
- A difficult pregnancy or traumatic birth experience
- Financial struggles
- Relationship problems with your partner
- Receiving little to no support to help care for your newborn
While prenatal or postpartum depression can resolve independently, knowing when to ask for help from a loved one or healthcare professional is essential. It can be difficult, but you should be aware of the following risks of ignoring your depression:
Every commercial, book, and healthcare professional highlights the importance of self-care, especially when caring for yourself and your baby. However, taking care of yourself can be extra challenging when you experience stress during pregnancy.
Getting enough sleep, eating a nutritionally balanced diet, taking vital prenatal vitamins, and making your health screening appointments can be tough. Previous coping mechanisms or substances such as caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol are now suddenly taboo. While you want your little one to be safe, avoiding these substances during a mental health crisis can sometimes be overwhelming.
Higher Incidence of Pregnancy Complications
Untreated prenatal depression can increase the likelihood of pre-eclampsia. This condition causes dangerously high blood pressure that can be life-threatening to you and your baby without treatment.
Even if you don’t have pre-eclampsia, prenatal stress from depression can compromise your baby’s blood supply, leading to growth restriction and low birth weight. Any of these complications can contribute to premature births with their own risks of neurocognitive deficits and developmental delays. It’s essential to understand that any of these conditions can develop without prenatal depression, but stress will always increase your risk.
If you are concerned about the amount of stress in your life, find ways to alleviate the tension. Prenatal yoga, massages, or guided meditations can help calm your body and put your mind at ease, sending calming messages to your little one as well.
Depression Is Multi-Generational
In addition to pregnancy complications, prenatal depression can alter children’s brains and impact their behavior. Researchers found that children of mothers that experienced prenatal depression were more likely to behave erratically and have mood instabilities compared to those children who didn’t have mothers with depression.
Mothers can struggle to bond with their children when suffering from depression, contributing to many developmental problems such as delayed communication and social skills. Studying children until they turned 18, another study found they are at a higher risk for developing depression, anxiety, and other behavioral problems.
As many of these problems can contribute to future mental health problems, which is how prenatal depression can have long-lasting effects on multiple generations. You can help protect your baby by participating in your provider’s early screenings. They will help with early diagnosis and treatment, so you and your baby can enjoy bonding without worrying about depression or anxiety.
What Depression Treatments Are Safe During Pregnancy?
Your provider or OB-GYN typically screens you for depression during pregnancy, and your pediatrician provides a postpartum depression screening during your baby’s visits. However, if you show positive indicators of depression, your first thought should be to keep your baby safe at all costs. You shouldn’t be worried about treatments that could harm your baby. You need appropriate treatment options you can carry out during pregnancy.
The first-line treatment for depression is typically talk therapy and antidepressant medication. While some drugs are safe for pregnancy, most present too many complications or risks to take while carrying your child. Speak to your provider about all your treatment options, as there are alternative depression treatments that are effective and very safe to undergo while pregnant.
Search for “TMS experts near me” to speak to alternative depression treatment specialists that can explain the efficacy and safety of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). In broad terms, TMS uses magnetic pulses to regenerate and rewire parts of your brain that are influencing your mood and emotions.
Because it’s a treatment directly to your brain, no circulating medications could get into your unborn baby’s bloodstream and potentially harm them. While there are no negative consequences of TMS during pregnancy, TMS does impact your baby. Prenatal depression treatment can lead to a pronounced positive effect on your parenting and your child’s development and behavior.
Prenatal depression can often persist and become postpartum depression if undetected or left untreated. It’s the second cause of death for women in the postpartum period. You can experience extreme sadness, anxiety, or psychosis. Our bodies are filled with hormones to prepare us to be incredible mothers. Unfortunately, sometimes these hormones go into overdrive, and we need some assistance.
Take stock of your emotional wellness before, during, and after pregnancy, especially the first year postpartum. Ensure your partner or close support network knows what warning signs to look out for if you have a history of major depressive disorder or postpartum depression. Join support networks for depression, parenting, and coping with depression while parenting. Remember, you are not alone.
Self-care is challenging enough without the added stress of caring for a newborn. Don’t ignore your mental well-being. You can stop the aspects of mental illness that prenatal depression can pass on. Plan for the best and prepare for the worst, setting you and your future family up for success. Even if your doctor regularly screens you, speak up to your provider if you are concerned about your mental state during or after pregnancy.