An estimated 13% of women have depression during pregnancy or after childbirth.
It isn’t just feeling blue or down in the dumps; depression may impact day to day functioning and this is not something to be dismissed as just one of those things that happen in pregnancy and should be attended to.
Factors responsible for depression during pregnancy
Some women are more prone to pregnancy depression than others, either because of a family history of mental illness or a personal predisposition to or previous episode of depression.
When coupled with the changes that pregnancy hormones can cause, this predisposition can lead to depression ranging from mild to severe.
Women who have had a previous pregnancy loss or complications in a previous pregnancy may also be at greater risk of depression during pregnancy. It is natural that a woman may feel anxious about the outcome of this pregnancy which makes it more likely.
Those women who have undergone fertility treatments may be more likely to have depression in pregnancy. Women expecting multiples are also at a higher risk of this problem.
Relationship problems, domestic abuse and other types of instability also increase a woman’s chances of experiencing pregnancy depression. Stressful life events, significant changes or bereavement can also increase risk of depressive episodes in pregnancy. Financial difficulties could also trigger such problems.
Substance abuse or pregnancy at a very young age are also risk factors for pregnancy related depression.
Symptoms of depression during pregnancy
When depressed, women may find that they feel anxious or sad all the time. A woman may feel worthless and out of sorts. There could be feelings of hopelessness and cases suicidal thoughts could also occur.
There could be sleep disturbances; being either unable to sleep or sleeping too much. There could be difficulty concentrating and even problems remembering things in some cases.
Eating habits may change and women may find that they get no enjoyment out of things and activities that they liked earlier.
The depressive symptoms persist beyond a couple of weeks and start to hinder normal functioning and a woman may find that she is not caring for herself and her home as she used to.
Why depression during pregnancy should not be ignored
If left untreated depression can have serious consequences for mother and child. It could mean inadequate pre and post natal care for both.
Many women may mistakenly think that a baby is just the cement that a fractured relationship needs but in reality a baby could end up putting even more pressure on the relationship. This is another reason never to ignore depression or dismiss it as mere baby blues.
A depressed woman’s physical health may deteriorate and she may develop disordered eating patterns and fail to gain adequate amount of weight. She may be tempted to self medicate or to use banned substances which may have very serious consequences for both mother and baby.
Depression during pregnancy raises risk of pregnancy complications such as premature labor, low birth weight or preeclampsia (pregnancy high blood pressure that can have serious consequences).