Then, you think about your baby and how your sadness is affecting your ability to take care of yourself, so you fall even deeper into depression. If you’ve always been the happy kind, then pregnancy has certainly taken you on a roller coaster of emotions.
What’s wrong with me?
Depression is a mood condition characterized by extreme sadness and unwillingness to thrive. Feeling sad is a normal emotion, but depression is a whole new level of sad – you feel so hopeless that your activities of daily living, like eating, sleeping, working and socializing are extremely affected by your withdrawal.
Depression is a common condition in all walks of life. In pregnancy, however, it is a cause for concern, because falling into it could easily affect you and your baby’s health. Pregnancy can be challenging, as a woman encounters several changes in her body, health and lifestyle, and good coping and support systems are imperative to help a woman get through successfully.
What is the cause for depression during pregnancy?
If you’ve been crying without reason, and are frustrated because you do not understand yourself, it can be easy to think you’ve gone crazy. But depression during pregnancy is actually more common than you think. At least 20% of women experience depressive symptoms while pregnant, and if they are left untreated, 10% could fall into full-blown clinical depression disorders.
Depression is actually caused by an imbalance of mood-stabilizing chemicals in the brain. In pregnancy, a woman’s body is subjected to various hormonal changes, which then trigger a disruption in the brain’s hormones.
As previously mentioned, the importance of a support system must never be undermined. A recent death in the family, financial instability, family and relationship issues, physical and emotional abuse and other stressful life crises can be trigger depression during pregnancy.
How Do I Know I’m Depressed?
Sadness once in a while is normal, but when extreme sadness takes over your life, you need help. Depression is a feeling of sadness, guilt and withdrawal that lasts for over two weeks. You may find yourself losing appetite and being unable to sleep, to the point where you are actually losing weight and getting sick. Your mood swings may be too erratic, and may upset people around you. You feel constantly tired and unwilling to move about. At work, you may be preoccupied by sad thought and may have trouble focusing. You want to be alone all the time, even if normally, you are sociable and friendly. And the ultimate sign of depression is that you are so withdrawn that you have thoughts or tendencies to hurt others, or worse, yourself.
How can depression affect the baby?
When a depressed woman does not eat and sleep, her baby will not get the needed nutrients and rest it needs. Depressed women often withdraw from society and don’t even bother going to prenatal care. They resort to drugs, cigarettes and smoking, which can harm the baby to a great extent. When depression is severe, women may do things to harm themselves and their babies – the worst is suicide. It seems that the body understands the mind when it rejects the baby, so depressed women are more prone to preterm labor or spontaneous abortion.
Can depressed women be well again?
There are medications to treat depression, but because of the baby, doctors go for less aggressive options first. Psychotherapy helps a woman cope with her depression and regain her confidence and willingness to live and take care of herself and her baby. Psychotherapy works well because before a woman is guided to move forward in her life, she is assisted to get to the root of the reason she is depressed so that in the future, she can deal with it better. If these don’t work, antidepressants will have to be given but the woman, as well as her baby, needs to be monitored extra carefully.