Possible triggers for prenatal depression include: family or personal history of depression, relationship problems or martial conflict, living alone, unplanned pregnancy, financial troubles, a complicated or high-risk pregnancy, being confined to bed rest, fertility treatments, previous pregnancy loss (fear that something may happen to this pregnancy), stressful life events (such as a recent death in the family, divorce, separation or job loss), being young at the time of pregnancy, history of substance abuse, limited support from family and friends as well as past history of being abused either emotionally, sexually or physically. There may be a number of reasons why a woman may get depressed during pregnancy, although at other times, the cause isn’t quite as clear.
Depression during pregnancy can be dangerous, since when it’s severe, it may result in decreased ability for women to care for themselves or their unborn baby, along with interference with prenatal bonding. Women may not eat properly, get adequate rest or receive prenatal care. Depression can also put women at risk for increased use of substances such as tobacco, alcohol and drugs. Women with severe depression may be at a much higher risk of suicide, if the depression is left untreated. Depression during pregnancy is linked to premature delivery, low birth-weight and possibly even depression and behavioral problems later on in the child.
In addition, depression during pregnancy is one of the strongest predictors of postpartum depression after delivery. About 50% of women suffering from depression during pregnancy go on to develop postpartum depression. The good news is treatment during pregnancy can reduce that number dramatically.
Many women suffer needlessly because they don’t seek help. Depression can be treated and managed during pregnancy, but the first step of seeking out help and support, is the most important. Treating depression is just as important as treating any other health concern during pregnancy. Without proper treatment, depression can get worse or be harmful to the baby or mother.
If you suspect that you are becoming depressed, it’s important to talk to your doctor or midwife about how you are feeling. He or she may want to prescribe anti-depressant medication and/or refer you to a therapist who can provide you with some much-needed support, if your depression is moderate to severe. Besides medication and therapy, alternative approaches include light therapy, support groups as well as self-help approaches that may help you feel better. These include: building a support network that can help with such things as household responsibilities, preparing meals and other daily tasks to help keep you from feeling fatigued, exercising, which can be very beneficial, especially walking and stress management. Make sure to take plenty of breaks, get adequate amounts of sleep and eat a well-balanced diet. Talking things out with your friends, partner and family may also be very helpful.