Pregnancy is supposed to be a joyful time, one of the happiest in a woman’s life, but for many women it’s a time of sadness and even bouts of depression. Depression can be described as an on-going and impairing feeling of sadness, hopelessness, unhappiness or being consistently down-in-the-dumps. Many people get the blues at one point in their lives or another, but clinical depression is considered a mood disorder in which these feelings interfere with day to day life for an extended period of time. Depression is common, with symptoms affecting as many as 70% of pregnant women and about 15% of those will suffer from major depression. Depression is one of the most common complications during pregnancy, even more common than postpartum depression is after delivery.
Often, depression during pregnancy (or “prenatal depression”) is overlooked, ignored and left untreated, due to the fact that some normal pregnancy changes cause similar symptoms and happen about the same time. This can easily confuse symptoms of depression with typical symptoms of pregnancy.
Common symptoms include: appetite changes (eating too much or too little), decreased interest, motivation or pleasure in activities that used to be enjoyed, change or disturbance in sleep patterns, excessive fatigue or lack of energy, difficulty focusing or concentrating, extreme restlessness and irritability, persistent feelings of guilt or worthlessness, extended periods of sadness, as well as significant weight gain or weight loss. Also, crying a lot, withdrawal from family and friends, stronger emotional reactions and excessive worries about a woman’s health or the health of her unborn baby can also be symptoms of depression. Recurring thoughts of suicide, death and feelings that life isn’t worth living anymore are more severe symptoms, which a woman shouldn’t hesitate to seek help for immediately. Any of the symptoms mentioned previously that last longer than 2 weeks or more at a time can’t be blamed on normal mood changes caused by pregnancy.
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