For most of us, pregnancy is a wonderful experience. At the same time, it can be one of the most stressful and difficult, even under the best of circumstances. From morning sickness to fatigue, swollen feet to back aches and cravings, pregnancy adds a lot of unique challenges to our lives for nine months. Women who are experiencing depression during pregnancy face a number of additional challenges.
Medical experts estimate that between 10-20% of pregnant women are depressed. It’s difficult to nail down any exact percentage of women who experience depression during pregnancy because many doctors don’t screen for it. Make you doctor aware if you have the following symptoms while you are pregnant, especially if your doctor hasn’t screened you for depression:
- Persistent hopeless feelings
- Inability to sleep
- Having a hard time concentrating
- Having a hard time making decisions
- Restlessness and irritability
- Guilty feelings
- Feeling worthless or helpless
- Loss of interest in sex
- Loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities
- Empty feelings
- Constant sad feelings
- Thoughts of suicide
- Sudden change in appetite
It’s important to note that some of these symptoms (such as changes in appetite and difficulty concentrating) can be a normal part of a healthy pregnancy. If the symptoms are extreme, though, of if you are experiencing several of them, you may be dealing with depression. If so, let your doctor know as soon as possible.
Depression Linked to Preterm Birth
One recent study has shown a correlation between depression during pregnancy and preterm delivery. In this study, women who were depressed were 40% more likely to have their babies before full term than women who had no symptoms of depression.
The study didn’t examine the difference between women who were being treated for depression and those whose depression was being left untreated. In large part, this was because the researchers believed it to be unethical to recommend that anyone suffering with depression forego treatment.
Women who are suffering with depression while pregnant have a number of treatment options. While most doctors are hesitant to prescribe medication if it can be avoided during pregnancy, there are a wide variety of support groups and therapeutic options for treating depression which pose no additional risk to pregnant women or their babies.