Depression during pregnancy is a common emotional disorder that can occur during pregnancy. Early detection and management can help reduce health issues that affect both the mother and the fetus.
What is depression during pregnancy?
Pregnancy is a very sensitive period for women. The physiological and emotional changes that occur during this time can affect both physical and mental health of pregnant women. Depression during pregnancy is a type of emotional disorder associated with feelings of sadness or despair lasting for at least 2 weeks. Pregnant women may also feel extremely uncomfortable or anxious about their baby. Difficulty concentrating or sleeping are other related symptoms.
According to estimates, 1 in 10 pregnant women experience depression. This is partly due to hormonal changes during pregnancy and other changes in life when becoming a mother. Depression is more common in first-time pregnant women.
Untreated depression during pregnancy can become serious. It can make pregnant women feel sad and desperate to the point of struggling to care for themselves and their fetus. In many cases, dangerous consequences can occur.
However, even when pregnant women are diagnosed with severe depression in clinical settings, there are many effective treatment methods. Starting treatment early increases the chances of success. Therefore, pregnant women need to pay attention to their mental health and seek medical attention when they notice any unusual signs.
Signs of depression during pregnancy
Some symptoms of depression such as changes in sleep, appetite, and fatigue are similar to those of pregnancy. Therefore, pregnant women may believe that these symptoms are due to pregnancy rather than depression.
To recognize depression during pregnancy, pregnant women need to monitor other signs. For example, feeling sad or hopeless, losing interest in things they used to enjoy… and these symptoms last for several weeks.
Pregnant women may experience depression if they experience any of the following symptoms for at least two weeks:
Loss of interest in daily activities or no longer finding them enjoyable Feeling sad or empty most of the day Low self-esteem and feeling like they are not a good mother Frequent crying without a clear reason Feeling extremely irritable and easily agitated Excessive worry about the unborn baby Difficulty concentrating or making decisions on important issues Low energy and extreme fatigue that does not improve with rest Experiencing changes in eating and sleeping habits, such as wanting to eat or sleep all the time or being unable to eat or sleep Feeling that life is not worth living Feeling helpless, hopeless, and guilty
The symptoms of depression during pregnancy may differ in each trimester. However, many studies have shown that they are more common in the first and third trimesters.
Causes of depression during pregnancy
The causes of depression in general and depression during pregnancy in particular have not been specifically determined. However, researchers believe that the activation of this disease is caused by multiple factors.
Pregnancy is a sensitive stage, and pregnant women experience significant psychological changes. Therefore, risk factors are also more specific for pregnant women than for normal people.
Some risk factors that increase the likelihood of depression during pregnancy include:
Since the beginning of pregnancy, the hormones in the mother’s body undergo significant changes. Experts believe that this is one of the main causes of depression in pregnant women.
The hormonal changes make pregnant women more sensitive, and their emotions become more intense in response to issues in their lives. Many pregnant women tend to focus on and worry about things more than they did before. In addition, everyday arguments with their partners can cause more stress during pregnancy.
For women who are looking forward to having a child, pregnancy is a gift. On the other hand, women who have unplanned pregnancies often have negative thoughts that affect both their mental and physical health.
Prolonged negative thoughts cause the mother to fall into a depressed state. This is especially true in cases where there is criticism or bad attitudes from those around them.
Controlling stress during pregnancy is very difficult for pregnant women. When faced with stressful events such as the end of a relationship, the loss of a loved one, job loss, and financial problems, pregnant women will be more affected. Excessive stress from these events can be a cause of depression during pregnancy.
Not a few pregnant women drink alcohol, smoke, or use prescription drugs to reduce stress. However, this not only increases the risk of depression but also exposes pregnant women to complications in fetal health.
Lack of support
Pregnancy is really a difficult process for pregnant women. Therefore, support from family and friends is essential. If the mother feels isolated or receives little support, there is a high risk of depression. In addition, problems in relationships or lack of support from the spouse can also increase this risk.
Fetal health is always the top concern for pregnant women. Some pregnancy complications such as congenital anomalies in the fetus or multiple pregnancies also increase the risk of depression in pregnant women.
Pregnancy can make it challenging to manage certain chronic health conditions, such as diabetes. Women with pre-existing or gestational diabetes may be at higher risk of depression during pregnancy.
Additionally, abnormal thyroid function can also be a contributing factor. The fluctuation of thyroid hormones, which regulate energy use and storage from food, during pregnancy can cause depressive symptoms.
Other factors that may be related to depression during pregnancy include:
- Personal history of depression or anxiety: If a woman has struggled with depression or anxiety in the past, the likelihood of experiencing depression during pregnancy may be higher.
- Family history of depression: If depression runs in the family, a woman may be at higher risk of experiencing depression during pregnancy. Additionally, women whose partners have been diagnosed with depression or other mental health disorders may also be at increased risk.
- Domestic violence: Domestic violence is prevalent during pregnancy and is also a risk factor for depression in pregnant women.
- History of sexual abuse: Women with a history of sexual abuse may be at higher risk of depression during pregnancy.
- Past traumatic events: Women who have experienced trauma in the past, such as infertility or miscarriage, may have increased anxiety about the safety of their current pregnancy, leading to an increased risk of depression.
The impact of depression during pregnancy
Some pregnant women may not seek treatment for depression due to various reasons. Some feel ashamed, guilty, or simply believe that symptoms of depression are just typical pregnancy symptoms and will go away on their own.
However, studies have shown that untreated depression can pose many risks to both the mother and the fetus. Particularly, the level of danger will increase over the course of the illness, especially when pregnant women have to use medication to balance their emotions.
Impact on the mother
Negative emotions and feelings of sadness due to depression can cause pregnant women to lose their appetite, leading to weight loss. Meanwhile, pregnant women need to supplement higher amounts of nutrients than usual.
Moreover, depression affects the sleep of pregnant women. Not eating and sleeping well can make them emotionally and physically exhausted. Over time, this can lead to fatigue, exhaustion, and noticeable weight loss. Additionally, it increases the risk of chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Pregnant women with severe depression may experience changes in thinking, perception, and behavior. In addition to isolating themselves from family and friends, many women also have thoughts of giving up their baby because they believe the baby is the cause of their suffering.
Impact on the fetus
In addition to the adverse effects on the mother’s health, depression during pregnancy also affects the fetus. The physical and intellectual development of the baby is closely related to the mother’s health.
Depression makes the mother’s body weak, so the fetus is not provided with enough nutrients to develop healthily. This increases the risk of malnutrition and weakness in the fetus even while still in the mother’s womb. In addition, depression also increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and other pregnancy complications.
Depression during pregnancy can have negative impacts on both the mother and the developing fetus. While medication can be used to treat depression, it can also pose potential risks and side effects for the fetus. Complications that can arise from the use of antidepressants during pregnancy include exposure to medication before birth, late pregnancy complications, increased risk of birth defects and developmental delays, jaundice or brain damage in the newborn, and serotonin syndrome.
In addition, not treating depression during pregnancy can also increase the risk of other problems for the baby after birth, such as excessive crying in newborns or emotional and behavioral issues in older children.
Treatment options for depression during pregnancy
Treatment options for depression during pregnancy may include psychotherapy, medication, and other forms of support. Depending on the specific case, the doctor will determine the best course of action for the mother and the developing fetus. It is important for pregnant women to speak openly with their healthcare provider about any symptoms of depression or other mental health concerns they may be experiencing.
Psychotherapy is conducted through conversation between a mental health professional and a pregnant woman experiencing depression. The goal is to identify the problem, develop coping strategies, and manage symptoms.
There are various methods and forms of psychotherapy available. Some commonly used methods for treating depression in pregnant women include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy helps the mother-to-be identify and change negative thoughts and behaviors. CBT has been shown to significantly improve quality of life and is an effective treatment for both depression and anxiety disorders. Psychodynamic therapy: Through this therapy, the mother-to-be gains an understanding of the emotional causes of their suffering and develops effective ways to deal with them. Interpersonal therapy: This therapy is particularly effective during pregnancy, as it teaches mothers-to-be how to cope with the many changes that come with becoming a mother.
Antidepressant medication during pregnancy
It is natural for pregnant women to be concerned about taking medication during pregnancy. However, when prescribing medication, the doctor carefully considers the benefits and risks of the medication for both the mother and the baby.
The risks associated with taking antidepressant medication during pregnancy are generally very small. The risks vary depending on the type of medication, dosage, and duration of use.
Most studies show that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are safe to use during pregnancy. These medications do not increase the risk of congenital defects in the fetus.
In some cases, other medications may be considered if necessary. Examples include serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) such as duloxetine and venlafaxine.
Bupropion is not a first-line treatment but may be used if the mother-to-be does not respond to other antidepressants. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) such as nortriptyline may also be considered.
The use of antidepressant medications during pregnancy needs to strictly adhere to the doctor’s prescription. Absolutely do not stop medication, increase/decrease the dose, or change the medication plan if the doctor has not allowed it.
Other support solutions
Coping with changes in hormones, physical and emotional changes during pregnancy is very difficult when pregnant women have depression. The best thing is to talk to a doctor to find a suitable treatment plan.
In addition, some of the following solutions may support pregnant women in controlling depression during pregnancy:
- Self-care: This is considered a very important part of taking care of pregnancy health. Pregnant women need to prioritize self-care. They should take time to read books, take a hot bath, or go for a walk.
- Spending time with loved ones: Nurturing relationships with a spouse, family, and friends is also essential during pregnancy. Pregnant women should know how to share to relieve stress, avoid excessive tension, and worry.
- Join a support group: Pregnant women can connect with other women, especially those who are struggling with depression during pregnancy. Empathy and sharing are valuable medicine to help mothers towards positive thoughts and behaviors.
- Physical activity: Pregnant women should exercise every day during pregnancy. It could be joining a yoga class for pregnant women or simply walking around the neighborhood. Research shows that physical activity can reduce anxiety and depression symptoms.
- Healthy eating: Pregnant women need to focus on consuming fresh foods. Especially fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, lean meat, and poultry with low fat. They need to try to minimize sweets and processed foods.
- Prioritize rest: Although pregnancy often makes it difficult for pregnant women to have a good night’s sleep, sleep is always essential to mental health. Therefore, try to go to bed early, invest in a comfortable pillow for pregnant women to support sleep.
- Requesting help: Do not hesitate to ask your spouse, family, or friends for help with tasks that need to be completed. Help will help mothers reduce stress and have more time to take care of themselves.
Depression during pregnancy is an issue that pregnant women should never be complacent about. It is necessary to implement a timely treatment plan combined with home care measures. Pregnant women should not…