Pregnancy brings about many changes in a woman’s life, including physical, emotional, and psychological. About 7% of pregnant women experience depression during pregnancy. The possible signs include excessive anxiety, low self-esteem, substance use abuse, poor adherence to prenatal care, poor weight gain, etc. Untreated depression might affect the baby as they won’t be able to receive optimum prenatal care, leading to higher chances of postpartum depression too. Treatment options might include psychotherapy, antidepressants, and psychotherapy.
The sudden surge of hormones, the pregnancy symptoms, continuous changes in your body, and just the overall stress of pregnancy are a few of the reasons which could lead to depression during pregnancy.
While there’s a strong stigma about mental illness, it becomes a bigger taboo during pregnancy. It becomes essential to talk to someone and get the help you need.
All of these emotions you feel during pregnancy are valid but treating depression is equally essential. The sooner you get the help you need, the better it is for you and your baby.
What are the signs of depression during pregnancy?
Believe it or not, depression during pregnancy can go undetected for many different reasons.
Mostly because there is so much happening at the same time that the focus and priorities of a mother could be clouded or out of place.
An OB/GYN physician at INTEGRIS Health Edmond, Courtney A. Seacat, M.D., says, “Depression may go unnoticed because changes in sleep, appetite, and libido are usually attributed to normal pregnancy and postpartum change. This is why screening during and after the pregnancy is so important.”
Here are some signs that can help you detect if you or someone near you is currently going through depression:
It’s pretty common to have doubts and fears during pregnancy due to the uncertainty of this period.
The overwhelming changes in your body and the shift in your role as a woman make things harder.
But if the worry and fear don’t stop and are now interfering with your daily functions, then this is not normal. You need to seek help if this is how you feel.
Another common sign that is being overlooked during pregnancy is having low self-esteem.
Most of us assume it’s normal because we expect to get fat, bloated, and even look different during pregnancy, thanks to the surge of hormones.
All that is normal and expected even, but if you start to feel like you are not enough to be a parent as a person in general, it could be a sign of early signs of depression.
Half of these signs are also the symptoms of depression for pregnant women and in general.
Using illegal drugs and smoking while pregnant clearly indicates something is wrong.
Continuing to do so while knowing it might affect your baby’s growth or life is a sign you need professional help.
Poor adherence to prenatal care
It’s the lack of energy to take care of yourself and your baby’s needs in your womb.
Prenatal care usually includes regular visits to the doctor, eating and drinking healthily, and ensuring you are well-rested.
If you have problems doing these or feel like you are almost forcing yourself, please consult your healthcare provider immediately.
Poor response to pleasure
If you are struggling to find joy in any activities or things that used to make you happy, that could be another sign of depression.
Or if you feel like you aren’t able to take a break from your sad thoughts and they’re constantly there, you don’t have to suffer alone and feel guilty for your emotions.
Talking to a specialist could make confusing emotions make sense.
Poor weight gain
A healthy diet is one of the most important parts of pregnancy.
Not only to ensure that you are getting enough nutrition for your baby but also to make sure that you will be strong enough to deliver your child when it’s time.
Not being able to gain a healthy weight during pregnancy indicates that you are not getting enough from your diet, and that will be a problem.
Not all depressed emotions lead to suicidal thoughts, but the chances are incredibly high.
So it’s vital to talk about it with someone and get the help that you need for yourself and your baby.
You might want to talk to your healthcare provider if you have any symptoms to prevent them from getting worse and get proper treatment.
How does depression affect your unborn child?
The stress and the lack of self-care during this period could lead to the devastating result of losing your baby.
This is delivering your baby before they are entirely ready to face the real world, roughly before 37 weeks of pregnancy.
Having depression could also cause SGA (Small for Gestational Age), which is when your baby weighs less than it should at its gestational age.
They do have the characteristics and behavior same as those of normal-sized infants of like gestational age, but they may appear thin with decreased muscle mass and subcutaneous fat tissue.
Having LBW (Low Birth Weight)
Having low birth weight is when your baby is born at less than 5 pounds which is the normal weight of newborn babies.
How can I take care of my mental health while pregnant?
Pregnant or not, your mental health should be at the top of your priorities.
Counseling, like CBT and IPT, is an excellent first step, and support groups are helpful too.
Talk to your local healthcare provider if you need any medication and, if so, what medications would be safe for you and your baby.
Can babies sense stress in the womb?
They do. Remember, you are literally connected, and so what you feel during your pregnancy, so will they.
It’s vital for your child’s development. That’s also why getting help when you need it isn’t only needed and good for you but for your child too.
We are just starting to give equal importance to our mental health as we’ve been giving to our physical health.
Many women experience various emotions during pregnancy and go through different mood swings and changes, so recognizing depression could be tricky but not impossible.
Recognize the symptoms and ask for the help you and your baby need. Talk to your partner, family, and friends about it.
The simple step of sharing your struggles could end up saving you and your child from depression.