Symptoms of prenatal depression
Pregnancy is often thought to be the happiest time in a woman’s life. It is a time of great change, preparation, and growth. But for many women, sadness, self-doubt, and exhaustion are a common experience. Antenatal depression affects between 10% and 20% of pregnant women, and 10% of expectant fathers. It can lead to inadequate nutrition, drinking, smoking, and suicidal behavior. Unborn babies are at risk for premature birth, low birth weight, and developmental issues. It is the most common complication of childbirth. Women experiencing antenatal depression may have experienced depression before. Some may have resolved it with medication, but choose to discontinue the medication for the duration of pregnancy, only to relapse. Some women have never been depressed before, but the hormonal shifts and constant changes to self-image can trigger the condition. Pregnancy should be a time of nurturing, both of the self and the expectant addition. Psychotherapy can help address the underlying fears, worries, and anxieties, and explore self-doubt in order to prepare you for a healthy, happy life as a parent.
Many are now familiar with postnatal, or postpartum, depression, thanks to an increase in efforts to create awareness and to diagnose and treat the condition in new parents. However, antenatal depression still remains a mystery to most, including the expectant mother and father despite studies that show a direct correlation between antenatal and postpartum depression. Often, expectant parents feel pressured to express positive emotions about pregnancy, even during difficult circumstances. Social pressure to appear joyful and happy can make seeking treatment even harder for some, and cause feelings of guilt and doubt about becoming a parent.
Symptoms of prenatal depression: Depression or Just Symptoms of Pregnancy?
For many women, depression can be hard to spot during pregnancy. Exhaustion is a normal symptom of pregnancy, as are hormonal shifts that can cause feelings of sadness or weepiness. Symptoms of prenatal depression include the following:
- Feeling restless or moody
- Feeling sad, hopeless, or overwhelmed
- Frequent crying
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Lack of or excessive appetite
- Desire to sleep all the time
- Trouble focusing or making decisions
- Difficulty remembering items
- Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
- Losing interest or pleasure in things you once enjoyed
- Withdrawing from family or friends
- Consistent headaches, aches and pains, or stomach pains
Many of these warning signs are considered a normal part of pregnancy and can go undiagnosed. Some women are more likely to develop antenatal depression. The following are all risk factors:
- A personal or family history of depression or anxiety
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD or PMS)
- Financial Insecurity
- Marital stress
- Inadequate support groups
- Complications in pregnancy
- Recent major life events (job change, death of a loved one, moving)
- Thyroid Imbalance
- Expecting multiples
- Infertility treatments
Getting care early in pregnancy can help to support both parents and the unborn child. Therapy is the preferred method of treatment. It is safe for both the parents and the baby. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a risk-free, proven strategy for treating antenatal depression. Antidepressants may be prescribed in extreme cases, though their safety has been called into question. In the posts that follow, we will examine different methods of treatment in detail.